Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “We’re pleased that the Government has recognised the need to learn lessons from the pilots. We wrote to Defra last year expressing our deepest concerns about the conduct of the culls, so it’s encouraging that they appear to be listening.
“We welcome their commitment to looking harder at the potential of vaccination at the heart of a suite of measures to get this devastating disease under control, including funding for vaccination projects and continued efforts to reduce the risks of cattle giving other cattle the disease – still the greatest route for the infection to spread. We’ve funded our own large vaccination programme on our Killerton estate so we’re pleased Defra are now looking to support programmes like this.
“What is clear to us, as an organisation that cares about wildlife and our farm tenants who carry out much of our conservation work in the wider countryside, is that the Government’s actions must be based on sound scientific evidence and meet highest possible standards of conduct, or risk making this devastating disease even worse. We are pleased that they appear to be listening, but will need to look at the detail of the strategy and the panel’s report before concluding our position.”
Farmers from across England will be taking a strong environmental message to Westminster later today [Wednesday 23 October, 2013], when they meet MPs to highlight the need for a greater share of funding to help threatened species, landscapes and heritage features.
Within weeks Owen Paterson MP – the Environment Secretary – will have to finalise his budget and priorities for the future of the countryside. A key decision the Secretary of State has to make is how much funding to dedicate to so-called agri-environment schemes, which fund farmers to manage their farms in wildlife-friendly and environmentally-friendly ways. With a finite amount of money available under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), he has the power to transfer up to 15 per cent of direct subsidies to these and other rural development schemes, and farmers attending today’s event are calling for the maximum transfer.
With many species continuing to decline this funding is needed more than ever. Figures released last week by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that the number of birds reliant on farmland have halved in number since 1970. Additionally, the State of Nature report launched by Sir David Attenborough, in May, shows that 60 per cent of 1064 species monitored on farmland have declined, and a third of the total, including the small skipper butterfly, have declined strongly.
As well as addressing wildlife declines, agri-environment schemes can also help promote more sustainable farming and deliver wider public benefits, such as tourism and jobs. The National Trust, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and Conservation Grade believe these schemes are vital for competitiveness and long-term viability of the sector, as well as the encouraging the growth and vitality of rural communities.
Richard Morris Farm Manager at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire said: “Farmers have to ensure a return from their land so that their businesses remain viable. With no other support this requires field corner-to-corner production. A successful alternative that has delivered huge benefits to nature are agri-environment schemes. If farmers sign up to these, they receive income support for the land they take out of production to replant hedges, establish margins, field corners and habitats which are rich and varied.
“Without continued support for the cost of management and forgoing income from these areas they are likely to return to production with the resulting degradation of nature’s resource. I believe the public would want to see more investment in this ecological friendly and more sustainable type of production. We need to ensure funds to deliver these schemes that protect biodiversity, habitat and healthy living landscapes both for today, and for future generations.”
The partnership of organisations helping with today’s event know from experience it is possible to reverse the declines of some of our most threatened wildlife, and to date a broad coalition of farmers, NGOs, scientists and Government have played a key role in some important conservation success stories. But the organisations believe if these successes are to be repeated in the future, continued support for environmental schemes is essential.
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, remarked: “Farming needs to be more in-tune with the natural characteristics of the land and rural economies in which it operates, recognising both its dependence on environmental resilience and sustainable land management, as well as the multiplier effect it can have both culturally and economically.
“We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of maximising modulation and securing a high agri-environment spend in mitigating the impact of EU cuts and securing a positive outcome for the countryside and taxpayers. Only then can we rise to the challenge of producing enough food, safeguarding our precious natural resources, and ensuring an economic future for farming and their communities.
“Our Government needs to show real leadership in Europe and send a clear signal that environmental sustainability has to be put at the heart of farming in the UK.”
Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He said: “Three-quarters of England is farmed, and that means farmers have a huge responsibility to look after a great proportion of our wildlife, landscapes and cultural heritage.
“Over the last two decades, an increasing number of farmers have embraced the challenge and taken the step to enter agri-environment schemes, working hard to get results on the ground. I’m delighted we are working alongside farmers today to try and secure a better deal for these schemes in the future.
“Together we hope that Owen Paterson MP will keep his pledge to help wildlife and the wider environment by shifting farming budgets in favour of those farmers seeking to farm in wildlife-friendly ways.”
The Wildlife Trusts Head of Living Landscape, Paul Wilkinson commented: “Wildlife Trusts across the country work with farmers delivering the current agri-environment schemes.
“We know how important it is for those famers who make a long-term commitment to delivering effective schemes to receive appropriate financial support. In many parts of the country, agri-environment schemes play a crucial role in shaping the landscapes that underpin rural economies and communities.
“We believe that the public appreciate that and we hope that the Government will therefore put the public funding in place to support those farmers who do the most for the environment.”
Today’s lobby of Parliament, includes 28 farmers, from various parts of England, working alongside the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and Conservation Grade.
A coalition of civil society organisations with over 12 million members is urging all MPs to support community-owned and controlled renewable projects in today’s Energy Bill debate. They are concerned that the draft Energy Bill would stifle the growth of the burgeoning community energy sector if changes are not made.
The group which includes: The Co-operative; the National Trust; the National Federation of Women’s Institutes; Transition Towns; and Groundwork, have written to all MPs asking them to support a community approach to the UK’s future energy needs.
The group believes that community ownership of energy projects empowers communities to collectively decide upon and run their own energy projects in locally appropriate ways. It also benefits the local economy by keeping the profits generated within the community, often being spent on tackling fuel poverty or other social problems.
The MPs have been contacted as the Energy Bill is debated in Parliament today (December 19). The organisations are concerned that the legislation has been designed for large commercial developers and could exclude communities from participating in the new energy market.
In Germany, an estimated 15% of all renewable electricity generation is owned by local communities, with over 600 energy cooperatives. In the UK this is around 1% but there are hundreds of energy groups with plans to generate renewable power.
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative, said: “Communities across the UK stand ready to lead a community energy revolution but their opportunity to grow could be extinguished if the Energy Bill stays as it is. Community energy must be treated fairly in electricity market reform and allowed to flourish as it has elsewhere in Europe.
“Community ownership is proven to increase public support for local renewable energy projects, which is vital if the UK is to meet its energy and climate objectives. A recent opinion poll we commissioned found that opposition to projects, including wind turbines, drops from 22% to just 7% if the project belongs to the community.”
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust said “We know that when communities secure a stake in energy projects they are much more reassured that their own beautiful local landscapes and villages that they love can embrace the proposals. Community energy can help empower local people to take control of their own energy futures and in a style that maintains and even enhances what makes local places special and cherished. We want to work with the Government to support a big increase in community owned renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes.”
Good Energy Partnership Powers National Trust’s Bold Energy Ambitions
The National Trust and green energy supplier, Good Energy, have announced a strategic energy partnership to help conserve the nation’s special places.
Good Energy will become the National Trust’s principal energy partner and will provide the charity with financial and practical support in developing renewable energy projects to help meet its ambitious target to halve its use of fossil fuels by 2020.
Projects are likely to include wood-fired boilers to replace old oil heating systems in National Trust properties, plus sustainable water and solar power installations to generate green electricity.
As part of the initiative, Good Energy will offer its certified 100% green energy tariff to over 4m National Trust members, in addition to supporters and volunteers.
For each National Trust supporter who signs up to the 100% tariff and standard gas, Good Energy will give up to £40 every year to support the National Trust.
The UK is blessed with abundant renewable energy sources which were used effectively in the past to generate heat and power. Good Energy will use its expertise in making the most of natural resources to generate energy, helping the National Trust to meet its bold targets.
Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder of Good Energy, said: “Good Energy’s mission is to make the world a more habitable place by changing the way we make and use energy. This makes us an ideal partner for the National Trust, who takes care of our nation’s most special places. We are looking forward to supporting the charity in its mission to half its use of fossil fuels by 2020, making the world a better place for all of us.”
Patrick Begg, National Trust Rural Enterprise Director said: “Building a renewable energy future for the special places we look after makes good business as well as environmental sense.
“Investing in renewables helps us reduce our costs which means more of the money we raise can go into vital conservation work. It also means we’re cutting our damaging carbon emissions by burning fewer fossil fuels. This will be vital in helping us do our bit to reduce the impact of changing climate on these special places.
“The partnership with Good Energy will gives us the opportunity to develop a range of innovative new schemes, and also tap into a wealth of sound advice and support.
“Signing up to Good Energy is another way our members can support the work we do, showing how they care for the places we look after for the benefit of the nation.”
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust is not involved in the pilot cull in Gloucestershire.
“We are strong supporters of vaccination as the long-term solution to this pressing problem. This is why we are running a badger vaccination programme at Killerton to help demonstrate the practicality of vaccinating badgers.
“We have consistently argued that any approach to tackling bovine TB in cattle should be science-led. All of the evidence points to the need for a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach to prevent transmission of the disease. This should include more rigorous measures to stop cattle-to-cattle, cattle-to-badger and badger-to-badger transmission.
“In England, we wouldn’t stand in the way of a pilot badger cull providing it was carried out according to best scientific advice. However, even if any pilots reduce TB in cattle, we don’t believe it will be possible to meet successful cull criteria over much larger areas.”
For a video on our vaccination programme and more information on this issue, visit our position statement: