4 July 2000
Cash call for green farm schemes

By Isabel Davies

FARMERS at the Royal Show have found themselves bombarded by messages about the benefits of joining environmental farming schemes.

But landowners and a leading conservation charity have warned that the governments agri-environmental schemes are dangerously underfunded.

The Farming and Countryside area at the show has a range of exhibits designed to show producers they can benefit from good environmental practice.

An exhibition called Green Grants in Action is being jointly staged by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency.

It highlights a range of funding available for producers who complete conservation projects as support is switched towards environmental measures

But Lord Lindsay, chairman of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, has called for more money to help farmers look after the environment.

He was speaking at the official launch of a new RSPB initiative at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire on Monday (3 July).

“We realise that farmers need more financial assistance to deliver the wildlife achievements we want to get. We frankly need more funds,” he said.

Lord Lindsay praised farmers for the conservation work they do and acknowledged that in many cases farmers pick up the bill.

“A lot of the contribution of farmers is not made off the back of a cheque,” he said. “That effort is made at their own expense.”

His comments came as he announced the extension of the Volunteer and Farmer Alliance – an RSPB scheme which was piloted on 200 farms last year.

The initiative involves provides farmers with a free survey of bird numbers on the farm together with maps and details of the wildlife in evidence.

It will now be rolled out so that any farmer in the UK can request a visit.

The RSPB believes farmers who take part can use the maps produced as supporting evidence for an application for agri-environment funding.

But the schemes are not without their problems.

Landowners have urged the government not to discriminate between large and small farms when it comes to making agri-environmental payments.

Anthony Bosanquet, president of the Country Landowners Association, said there was no justification for limiting payments to larger farmers.

“Managing a hectare of land for the environment is much the same unit cost whether you have 10ha or 100ha,” he said.