RSPB to stop ‘farmer bashing’ over conservation

The RSPB has vowed to stop being over-critical of farmers and their efforts to protect the environment.

Martin Harper, the organisation’s newly-appointed head of conservation, said farmers needed to be given support and recognition for the steps they take to increase farmland bird numbers.

“The era of farmer-bashing is over,” Mr Harper told Farmers Weekly at Cereals 2011 in Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire.

“I want to make sure those farmers who are doing the right thing for the environment get support and recognition – not just because it’s good for wildlife but because it’s also good for them to hear and they deserve it.”

Mr Harper, who has a background in conservation and has been working at the RSPB for seven years, said he wanted the RSPB to make more effort to work with farmers to improve the environment.

“We talk to 3000 farmers a year in an advisory role and want to do more of that,” he added.

“I want our energy to focus on working with progressive farmers and if we have an axe to grind that will be with government rather than the NFU or otherwise.

“I’m up for conversations with [NFU president] Peter Kendall to get the right policies to allow farmers to do their job while maintaining the environment.”

Mr Harper said farmers had taken encouraging steps towards joining the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and he hoped producers would turn to the organisation for advice on how to do more.

“It can be counter-productive if we are over-critical,” he added.

“It’s in farmers interests to get involved in the CFE. The start of next year will be an important time and farmers need to deliver.

“If it’s not delivering on the voluntary side government will look to compulsory measures and farmer’s don’t want that.”

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