Subsidy changes to benefit wildlife

ONE-third of all farmland in Suffolk could be taken out of production, creating huge benefits for wildlife, because of changes to subsidies given to farmers.

ONE-third of all farmland in Suffolk could be taken out of production, creating huge benefits for wildlife, because of changes to subsidies given to farmers.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) say changes to the Common Agricultural Policy agreed recently could see a transformation of the county's landscape – if the will is there to do it.

As from 2005 farmers will no longer be given hectarage payments for production, which experts say could lead to 30per cent of agricultural land unused.

It could mean a move away from intensive farming, food mountains and over-grazing to a more environmentally-sensitive farming.


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In addition, ten per cent of every arable farm will be required to be set aside to benefit the environment, which the SWT would like to see used to protect semi-natural habitats and watercourses.

"The reforms could see landowners of marginal land around our coasts and estuaries, where you are struggling to get two tonnes of cereal an acre, abandoning crop production altogether," says Suffolk farmer John Cousins, head of agricultural policy for the wildlife trusts.

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"The challenge to us is to ensure that land taken out of production as a result of reforms, is not left unmanaged.

"The wildlife trusts and other organisations will be lobbying to ensure farmers receive payments to manage this land for wildlife and maximise biodiversity.

"With commitment to habitat management there is huge scope for bringing back some of our most beloved semi-natural landscapes with their associated wildlife."

Farmers who come out of production will continue to get the same payment as they have been for the last few years – but no production-related subsidies.

Those who stay in farming will be get a base rate payment and sell their produce at world market prices.

"The cessation of production could mean a return of our classic heath and grasslands, while a more extensive, wildlife-friendly agriculture with reduced use of pesticides and fertilisers, could see an increase in seed eating birds and other declining wildlife to our countryside," said Mr Cousins.

"The reduction of food surpluses may also have a wider effect on the global economy and help third world producers compete in the world market."

N What do you think of the changes to subsidies for farmers? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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