Farmers and land managers

"Agriculture is a key determinant of biodiversity"

‘Biodiversity – the UK Action Plan (1994)

HARRY BAINBRIDGE

 

Henry Bainbridge, hill farmer and member of BAP Steering Group

Copyright: The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Target Group

All people managing agricultural land in Lancashire. This includes tenant farmers and farm contractors. Landowners, including large estates (and the agents acting for them) form part of the target group.

Facts and Figures

  • About two thirds of the land area of Lancashire is used for some agricultural purpose during the year (e.g. Arable farming, Horticulture, Cattle and Sheep rearing) (Source: Green Audit 1985).

 

Links with Species and Habitat Action Plans

Habitat Action Plans: Arable farmland; broadleaved & mixed woodland; calcareous grassland; species-rich neutral grassland; moorland & fell; mosslands; rivers & streams.

Species Action Plans: Purple ramping-fumitory; brown hare; lapwing; Skylark; bats; great crested newt; water vole.

 

Current Initiatives in Lancashire

  • Biological Heritage Sites (BHS) Project: BHSs are non-statutory sites of nature conservation interest designated for planning purposes by Lancashire County Council. The Project contacts and visits site owners to advise about management for wildlife, grants, etc. The Project is planning to produce a free newsletter to be sent to all owners and managers of BHSs.

  • Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG): The Lancashire Branch of FWAG actively promotes good conservation practice on farmland throughout the county. FWAG’s Farm Conservation Adviser can advise on best practice and assist with grant applications. Lancashire FWAG produces a newsletter for Group members called "Tewit".

  • Farming and Rural Conservation Agency: FRCA advisers administer the Countryside Stewardship Grant on behalf of MAFF. In its eligibility criteria the Grant takes account of UK BAP and other biodiversity targets within the county. FRCA advisers visit farms to advise on Stewardship bids, to evaluate applications and to assess implementation. MAFF/FRCA produce a regional newsletter for land managers in Stewardship.
  • Lancashire County Countryside Officers & other countryside rangers: The Countryside Officers encourage landowners and managers to take up conservation and related grant schemes throughout the county and can act as a first point of contact to guide interested parties to the best sources of advice. In the Bowland AONB and the West Pennine Moors their activities are targeted by action plans and statements of intent. In other parts of the county BAP targets could usefully drive their work programmes.

  • Lancashire Woodlands Project: A joint initiative between Lancashire County Council and the Forestry Commission.

Possible Methods of Communication with Target Group

  • Personal approach – Via farm visits by FWAG, BHS and/or MAFFadvisers. Countryside officers and rangers also have a graet deal of day-to-day contact with farmers.
  • Training events, demonstrations and short courses – High quality training run by industry-recognised bodies have proved effective in other areas.
  • Publications – Farmers already receive many unsolicited free leaflets and other material so any new material would have to be seen to fill a particular need.
  • Media – It is assumed that it would be better to deliver information via newsletters and journals likely to be read by farmers rather than by using general media outlets. The NFU newsletter is an example of a journal that could be used.
  • Agricultural shows – General promotion of theBiodiversity Action Project could be achieved through stalls at shows.
  • World Wide Web – There are websites with biodiversity information aimed at farmers (for example, the Environmental Management for Agriculture site maintained by the University of Hertfordshire)

 

Issues

As shown above, agricultural land accounts for a very significant proportion of the land within the county. For this reason, the co-operation and involvement of farmers and rural land managers will be key to the successful implementation of a very significant proportion of BAP targets.

This BAP is published against the background of a severe crisis in agricultural incomes. The financial situation faced by many farmers puts pressure on them to concentrate only upon activities that promise some economic return. Agri-environmental schemes such as Countryside Stewardship offer some incentives to land managers to implement conservation measures but the funds available do not match demand.

Financial considerations may be a barrier to more conservation work being carried out on farmland. In 1999, a survey of farmers’ opinions about biodiversity was conducted in Hampshire. One question concerning barriers to conservation work on elicited the response that financial constraints were a major obstacle. However, of equal importance were other factors such as pressure of work and uncertainty about where to go for sources of advice. At this stage, a similar survey has not been undertaken in Lancashire. Research is needed amongst Lancashire’s farming and land-owning community into views on biodiversity in order that the best ways can be distinguished to work with the target group.

The importance of farmers as stewards of the countryside and of biodiversity needs to be emphasised outside the farming community as well as within. The BAP process could be helpful in this respect. In particular, positive stories that reflect good practice on farms should be highlighted in BAP publicity.

Several of the Action Plans that relate to farmland species have highlighted the lack of adequate baseline data from which to begin monitoring progress. It cannot be assumed that national trends (for example in bird numbers) have been exactly mirrored in Lancashire and, therefore, data specific to the county is needed. Some surveys of farm biodiversity are already underway (e.g. BTO's Winter Farmland Bird Survey) but some highly-specific studies will be needed and in many instances this will require access permission from landowners. The data from surveys needs to be made available to land managers to aid their management decisions and to support agri-environment grant applications where these are submitted.

 

Actions Proposed

Broad Objective:

A. Establish a system for implementing and monitoring BAP objectives relating to farmland.

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Set up working groups to co-ordinate aspects of HAPs and SAPs relating to farms.

1. Convene groups in early 2001 to co-ordinate delivery of farmland BAP targets involving local farmers and landowners. (High)

NFU, CLA, FWAG, MAFF , GC, NGO, WT, RSPB

S

PR

2. Develop strategy to implement and monitor BAP objectives relating to farmed land

1. Finalise and begin implementation of strategy by mid 2001 to deliver SAPs and HAPs relating to farmland. (High)

BAP Farm Group (See Objective A.1.)

S

P

2. Monitor progress with implementation through involvement of recording groups and specific surveys. (High)

Recorders, Bird Clubs, Natural History Socs.

O

RM

 

Broad Objective:

B. Ensure sources of information about the BAP and biodiversity issues are accessible to all farmers in Lancashire.

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Research farmers’ needs for information about biodiversity. 1. Conduct survey of farmers’ information needs and evaluate most effective methods of communication. (High)

BAP Farm Group (See Objective A.1.)

S

RM

2. Produce materials where appropriate to fill gaps. 1. Use survey results to determine best way to fill gaps in information needs. (High)

BAP Farm Group (See Objective A.1.)

S

A

Date: April 2001.

 

 

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