There was a very cold and tired buff-tailed bumblebee in the moth trap this morning.
It must be well over a year since I was last at Parke – I used to work there as the National Trust’s General Manager for Dartmoor. I met up for a quick chat with a few of my old colleagues – good to see them.
My main purpose was to meet with Kevin Bishop, the Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Chief Executive and Ali Kohler, the DNPA’s Director of Conservation and Communities to talk about my PhD and get some ideas and feedback from them. Very helpful.
Great to see one of the Moor Otter sculptures in the main reception – you will, I expect, hear a lot more about these when we get to the summer – see here for more details – there are going to be 100 of them (all different) dotted around the National Park later in the year
On the way home I drove down the Teign Valley and stopped to photograph the wild daffodils that are beginning to flower in profusion – those in full sunlight were flowering – those in shade will need a couple more weeks
Today sees the beginning to the NFU’s 2 day annual conference, being held in Birmingham. The event started with an opening address from NFU president Meurig Raymond which was then followed up by a speech from the Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom.
It wasn’t long before Raymond was asking for more action on badgers and bTb including an extension of the geographic area where culling could take place. He then went on to make an impassioned plea to allow the continued us of glyphosate. He talked about a new report that the NFU had commissioned ‘Contributions of UK Agriculture’ by Development Economics which suggested that for every £1 invested in British agriculture the country saw a return of £7.40 – you can download the report here. This led him to call for continued farm support / subsidy post 2020.
He also set out a ‘recipe’ for success post-Brexit which consisted of the following three ‘ingredients’
- Access to the Single Market
- Access to labour
- A new agricultural policy which facilitated productive, progressive and profitable farming
A classic NFU / Raymond performance which left me feeling rather uncomfortable, the implication being that if the Government doesn’t listen, then the farming industry will face disaster. You can read his full speech here.
Andrea Leadsom then took to the stage and whilst most, if all all, of the questions that the NFU delegates wanted answering were not I thought there were some interesting little nuggets. (You can read her full speech here.)
She posed the question ‘What kind of industry to be want agriculture to be post-Brexit?’, to answer this she said Defra would be guided by 5 principles:
- Trade – tariff-free and frictionless cross-border trade with Europe.
- Productive and competitive – improved skills, leadership and innovation with technology
- The Environment – a fair return from the market but incentivised and rewarded for caring for the environment
- Trust – New agricultural support policy which promote animal and plant health and welfare
- Resilience – to commodity prices fluctuations, bTb and flooding
Regarding the Brexit negotiations she said “Those negotiations will take time, and change is, of course, inevitable”, prepare yourselves the status quo will not continue.
About the call for seasonal workers she said “we mustn’t forget that a key factor behind the vote to leave the EU was to control immigration”, you can read into that what you will, but I took it to mean that agriculture was going to have to find new ways of solving this problem, she later alluded to the use of new technologies.
When talking about future policies for farm support / subsidies she said “And how do we devise a system of support that properly takes into account the diverse types of farming, and the challenges unique to each? So, for example, how can we ensure a more tailored approach – one that recognises the needs of hill farmers alongside those of arable farmers and protects our precious uplands as well as our productive fenland?”. The use of the language ‘precious uplands’ is important and I think signals again that hill-farmers will be supported in return for looking after the uplands. Interesting she also mentioned the protection of our ‘productive fenlands’ I have written before about how intensive agriculture in the fens is leading to the wholesale loss of the peat based soils (see here). Is this remark a signal that in future these soils must be conserved and not just allowed to oxidise and blow away?
When it came to the environment she said “British farmers don’t only produce world-class food, but as part of that process, they care for and shape some of our most iconic landscapes. Yet, whilst 70% of our land is farmed, just a small percentage of funding is directed towards the provision of these environmental services.”
“So, alongside a fair return from the market, farmers must feel incentivised and rewarded for caring for the environment. The current CAP has improved over recent years, but in trying to do more for the environment, farmers have found themselves confronted with unnecessary bureaucracy.”
“So as we leave the EU, we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at these schemes and think about what mechanisms are needed to promote the twin goals of productive farming and environmental improvement. I want to consider, for example, how we will strike the right balance between national frameworks for support measures whilst tailoring them to local landscapes and catchments.”
This is the clearest articulation of ‘public money for public goods’ stated by Defra to date.
I predict a battle royale now between Defra and the NFU. Yes, Defra will negotiate for access to the Single Market – tariff free, but they won’t cave in over migrant labour and future farm support will be for ecosystem services.
This is not what the NFU wanted to hear but in return Defra will sweeten the bitter pill by extending the badger cull, permit the continued use of glyphosate, will provide bridging loans for those yet to receive their Basic Payment Scheme money and in some circumstances pay farmers who allow their land to flood under the auspices of ecosystem services.
I will be interested to see if anyone else has this take on the two speeches!
A few more moths in the trap this morning.
The weather has turned mild and for a few hours yesterday the sun shone. I therefore decided it was time to get the moth trap out again. It has been rested for the last couple of months. I gave it a little service which included that now old fashioned technique of re-wiring the old plug which had become loose.
Only one animal in the trap this morning – a Dotted Border. The adults are on the wing from February to April. This is a male, the female is flightless and has tiny stumpy wings. The caterpillars of the Dotted Border feed on a wide range of deciduous tree leaves. The caterpillars will hatch from their eggs in April and feed until June. The caterpillars will then pupate and over winter until emerging as adults next February. An early spring specialist!
The other animal I found yesterday in the garden was a Western Conifer Seed Bug – the first time I have ever seen one. Originally from Western North America it arrived in Italy a few years ago presumably as a result of ‘world trade’ and has now spread throughout the Continent. It first arrived in Britain in 2007. The larvae and adults feed on the flowers, cones and seeds of various conifers including Scots Pine. As of yet it hasn’t turned into a pest in the UK but it can be a problem in seed nurseries.. For more information on it see here.
Had two rows this morning, the first in our new as yet un-named gig which was funded by the OneFamily Foundation after we won the public ballot last year – which many of you helped us with.
The new gig is a treat to row and is fabulous!
Thanks OneFamily Foundation.
If you fancy gig rowing with the Exmouth Gig Club – press here.
A story appeared in the Guardian (here) and on the BBC website (here) about a joint campaign/press release by Mountaineering Scottish and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding the Scottish government’s plans to increase forest cover in Scotland from 17% today to 25% by 2050.
The joint press release (here) contained the following:-
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Mountaineering Scotland have written a joint letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, concerned at the potential impacts fragmented policy may have on Scotland’s rare open landscapes.
Both organisations fear a lack of joined up thinking could see the loss of internationally rare landscapes as Scottish Government pursues a policy of large scale afforestation without a blueprint to preserve its celebrated vistas.
In my view the reporting both by the Guardian and the BBC didn’t do the story justice. It led to many people interested in the environment wondering what on the earth Mountaineering Scottish were up to and what were they doing teaming up with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association?
The respected Guardian correspondent tweeted this:-
(no it doesn’t)
and the CEO of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said this.
However nearly everyone got the wrong end of the stick.
Mountaineering Scottish and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association were talking about the afforestation of the hills with commercial conifer plantations, they were not talking about allowing the Caledonian Pine Forest to re-wild or be replanted.
As a result Mountaineering Scottish issued a clarification – see here. It includes the following:-
In calling for an upland landscape vision and policy, we have highlighted one aspect of land use that we feel needs consideration at a strategic or policy level – the growth of commercial forestry. This does not mean we are against new planting, and we are in favour of native species. This reflects the views of our members as 94% who responded to a survey said we should campaign for the growth of native woodland and conservation of Scotland’s iconic Caledonian pine forests.
OK that was in Scotland, but here in England we are awaiting Defra’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment – I will bet you that has something on ‘tree planting’ in it as well.
In a Dartmoor context increasing the cover of broadleaved trees in places where it doesn’t impact on the historic environment and helps reduce flooding will be largely welcomed but any plans for extensive afforestation with conifers will cause uproar (again).
More conifers will undoubtedly be planted but the debate is where and where not – that is what MS and the SGA were actually saying their campaign.