Industry prepares to boost farmland birds

Farm advisers are gearing up to help growers deliver on their pledge to boost farmland bird populations.

The move follows DEFRA’s decision to back voluntary measures as the best way of retaining the environmental benefits of set-aside.

Backed by farm leaders, the Campaign for a Farmed Environment will balance food production with the need to improve farmland bird habitats.

It was developed after DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn challenged farm leaders to come up with a convincing alternative to a compulsory set-aside replacement.

The campaign will see farmers adopt environmental measures to boost farmland birds, wider biodiversity and water quality in a way that is agronomically sensible.

The Agricultural Industries Confederation said it was already preparing advice so farm suppliers could help growers make the campaign a success.

David Caffall, AIC chief executive, said advisers would provide advice across a range of disciplines from agronomy and biodiversity to whole farm business planning.

“We recognise our role is to deliver the necessary advice to help farmers and land managers address the campaign themes within sustainable production systems.

“We believe that, with professional schemes such as BASIS and FACTS, the industry has the ability to help farmers meet government expectations.”

Farm leaders said it was vital that the industry now delivered on its promises to secure and enhance the environmental management of farmland.

The NFU, Country Land and Business Association and others will work with environmental groups and government agencies to make the campaign work.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “We are convinced this is the best solution for both the environment and farm businesses.

“But we must now deliver on our promises together with our industry partners, government agencies and conservation groups.”

That view was echoed by CLA president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher.

It was only fair that farmers were given a say in how their land benefited the environment, he said.

“The industry will do its utmost to encourage farmers and land managers to take part in the voluntary scheme.”