10 September 2001
‘Farmers put millions into hedgerows’

By FWi staff

FARMERS spend more than 16 million a year looking after the hedgerows on their farms, according to a new survey by the National Farmers Union.

A poll of 1000 farmers has revealed that 80% of producers actively manage their hedges to assist wildlife and conserve the landscape.

This ties in with government figures showing that almost 8000 miles of “derelict” hedge was brought back into regular management between 1990 and 1998.

NFU president Ben Gill said the fact that farmers were still carrying out this type of work was a true testament to how much farmers care for the countryside.

“The cost of maintaining Britains hedgerows is huge yet, despite the current economic crisis, farmers have continued to invest their time and money in countryside protection.

“Farmers recognise their responsibility to the environment. The issue is whether they can afford to do as much as they would like,” he said.

The survey was published as the NFU and government advisers English Nature launched a joint campaign to help Britains farmers farm in a wildlife friendly way.

The organisations have joined together to produce a five point action plan which sets out low-cost management steps farmers can take to improve their conservation efforts.

It also encourages farmers to look for new ways of boosting wildlife by joining an agri-environment scheme.

David Arnold-Foster, chief executive of English Nature, said farm habitats made a vital contribution to Englands biodiversity.

“This guide will encourage farmers and landowners to take extra steps to manage land for wildlife or to accelerate work they are already doing.

“Every farmer can work for wildlife using these simple low-cost actions which we are delighted to be promoting in partnership with the NFU.”

Other key findings in the NFUs survey are that farmers spend at least 1.5 million hours – the equivalent of 41,000 weeks – maintaining hedgerows.

And the 16m figure does not even include extra work such has hedge laying, gapping or the planting of new hedges.

A third of all farmers said time and money were the principal barriers to doing any more.

Another 60% said they would like to join an agri-environment scheme but felt the rules were too complex and the incentives too small.