Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Bees, birds and hedgerows at risk: public must act to protect nature on farms

 6th Nov 2013

Bee thistle and pollen ny Lynne NewtonSomerset Wildlife Trust is urging local people to act now to protect nature on farms. Last week (Oct 31) the Government launched a consultation on how the Common Agricultural Policy should shape the future of farming and the rural economy in England from 2015-2020.

The Government has given only 28 days for the public to have their say on how 69% of the English landscape is maintained and how farmers can be financially supported to deliver the environmental benefits that underpin sustainable food production, healthy ecosystems and rural communities.

Lobby your MPs before November 28

This national decision will have a big impact on counties in the South West, which have a rural character and a high proportion of land in environmental grant schemes. The Trust is encouraging people to lobby their MPs before November 28, asking them to support farming with nature, with more information available at

Somerset Wildlife Trust is gravely concerned that overall budget cuts will mean a halving of the area of land currently benefiting from farm environment schemes. Additionally, the Trust is extremely disappointed at the Government’s lack of ambition on implementation of the new ‘greening’ measures, which are linked to 30% of the payments that all farmers receive.  The consultation makes it clear that it intends to implement greening in a way that keeps close to the basic European requirements.

Somerset Wildlife Trust welcomes the Government's support for moving the full 15% funding allowable under EU rules into the purse that supports the farm environment schemes that do most for nature - this is a necessity if such schemes are to be viable in the future. In a county like Somerset, which still has a high quality environment, this could see a higher proportion of the available subsidy being received.

Almost £4.2 million of environmental subsidies for Somerset farmers

Simon Nash, CEO of Somerset Wildlife Trust, says: “Many of our nature reserves depend upon farm-environment subsidies, but we have a wider reason for wanting the Government to make a good choice for the environment. Through our Living Landscape programmes on the Mendip Hills and in the Brue Valley we are rebuilding and reconnecting wildlife habitats by supporting farmers to claim farm-environment subsidies that enable them to do good work for wildlife. Since 2009 our Brue Valley Living Landscape alone has secured almost £4.2 million of environmental subsidies for Somerset farmers. Somerset Wildlife Trust does this work with farmers to conserve the quality of our environment, but the subsidies we have secured are also incredibly important to Somerset’s rural economy.”

David Leach, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Brue Valley Living Landscape Manager adds: “These subsidies aren’t just important for wildlife. They conserve wetlands that store water during flooding, enhance the quality of our water in reservoirs, rivers and beaches and protect natural habitats that store carbon. Our environment is an asset and we need to keep investing in to make sure that people in Somerset continue to benefit from all the free services that nature provides”.

The Wildlife Trusts welcome:
• The Government’s affirmation that CAP will be a strong contributor to Government environmental objectives and the highlighting of biodiversity, water and soils quality, and specific mention of restoring peatlands.
• A new element of environmental land management schemes being delivered on a landscape-scale, in addition to the actions targeted at the most valuable sites for nature. However, the limited budget means it’ll be restricted to a small number of areas.
• The Government’s desire to produce a package of measures to generate more habitats and food sources for pollinators.  However, these must be developed across the whole landscape ­ in grassland as well as arable systems ­ and must be strategically linked across the landscape to create sustained enhancements for these species.

In the future, The Wildlife Trusts believe we need to ensure that public money (the CAP budget for the UK totals almost £20 billion) is deployed for public benefit with more transparency in how this huge amount of money is being spent.

Get template letters/emails/tweets

Lobby your MPs before November 28, asking them to support farming with nature, with more information and resources available at



Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
The Wildlife Trusts believe that the Government can do two things to ensure that we continue to reward farmers for delivering environmental measures on their farms:

Firstly, it can sustain the funding for farm environment schemes by transferring the maximum amount allowed from another CAP budget pot (the direct payments pot) to the budget that supports these schemes (the rural development pot). 

Secondly, it can use the ‘greening’ measures that are being introduced to farms across Europe (and which are linked to 30% of farmers’ direct payments) to maximum benefit-raising environmental standards.  It can also make sure that farms which are unable to get into environment schemes can play their part in helping to address  issues such as the loss of wildflower-rich grasslands and the fragmentation of remaining habitats across farmland.



Bee thistle and pollen by Lynne Newton