Farmers backing birds and the bees

Simon Fisher.
Simon Fisher.
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The much maligned Common Agricultural Policy was recently criticised (again) by environmental pressure groups and the BBC who highlighted that grants designed to protect the countryside have been controversially switched to pay England’s farmers to grow peas and beans, writes Simon Fisher, county adviser for Nottinghamshire and Holland (Lincolnshire) County Branches.

Farmers apparently watered down the policy!

Firstly, policy is not decided by farmers. We make a case to politicians just as the very active environmental groups do. It is politicians and civil servants in Brussels and Westminster that decide policy. What was obliquely being referred to were new CAP greening measures which a farmer is obliged to do to receive direct support payments from Brussels.

The measure highlighted is the ability to use a nitrogen fixing crop such as peas and beans to qualify for the ecological focus area greening measure. While making the CAP more complicated and less market orientated, the measure is far from being a waste of time. It is something that will help the environment. Firstly, these nitrogen fixing crops help improve the soil. Secondly, they provide flowers for pollinators from April to June and later. Readers growing broad beans in the veg patch will know they are full of pollinators. That is great for bees and other insects. Thirdly, it is great fledgling bird food. Bearing in mind that the environmental groups often berate us for the reductions in farmland birds and bees this measure would appear to be quite a positive one!