Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's all been set-aside.

EU commissioners have abolished the 19 year old agreement that 10% of land on every arable farm is to be left fallow. In the past it has been as high as 15%. This year though they have set the rate to 0% in order for farmers to be able to produce more grain to offset recent poor harvests, as well as increasing food prices. The decision has been purely economic.

Although some set-aside could be maintained through the Countryside Stewardship scheme it is unlikely to be on the scale of set-aside, and is unlikely to be in force for next spring - thus forcing many farmers in to ploughing up fallow areas in order to make a living.

The impact on bird life, as well as insects, butterflies and small mammals, is likely to give rise to, at the very least, a halting of all recent increases in some species but, as is more likely, it will reverse trends, increasing the demise of already struggling species.

The RSPB is fearful of all of its work on Stone Curlews being reversed, and the BTO targets Skylark, Yellowhammer and Linnets as species most likely to be immediately affected. Obviously all farmland birds are likely to suffer in the long-term.

Image: Copyright Mike Buckland (www.kentos.org.uk)

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