Blame for farmland bird decline rejected by growers

Growers representatives have hit back at claims they are to blame for a massive drop in farmland bird populations.

They also rejected a proposed need for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Grower leaders spoke out after a pan-European study found birds such as the grey partridge had declined by 90 per cent in the UK in 30 years, while linnet was down by 57 per cent. The report prompted the RSPB to suggest the "shocking figures" showed the need to reform the CAP.

RSPB policy officer Jenna Hegarty said: "I hope these stark figures bring home to policymakers the vital importance of a CAP that works for people and nature. It's not a choice between food and birds. We can have both."

But NFU countryside adviser Dr Andrea Graham said: "It's important to remember the reasons are complex and not all are attributable to farm practices.

"It's too simplistic to pin the blame and the solution only on the need for further CAP reform."

The Rural Development Programme for England, for example, accounted for nearly £4bn of the CAP for a six-year period, she said.

Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group technical director Jim Egan said there were also farmland birds whose populations were increasing in England, such as the tree sparrow.

He pointed out that problems were being tackled through the Entry-Level Stewardship scheme, while new best practice from Defra and Natural England was to be rolled out soon.

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