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Minister urged to give wildlife-friendly farming a future

Last modified: 12 November 2013

NoFA 2012 - Jack Kelly

Local farmer Jack Kelly has signed a letter to Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill urging her to provide funding for agri-environment schemes.

Image: The RSPB

Farmers and agri-businesses from across Northern Ireland have lent their support to the RSPB’s campaign calling for DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA to give wildlife-friendly farming a future by transferring vital funds into the Rural Development Programme (RDP), and specifically agri-environment schemes, to ensure that farmers can continue to help threatened wildlife and restore natural habitats.

The farmers and agri-businesses have signed a letter sent to the Minister earlier this week, encouraging her to transfer the maximum rate of funding (15%) from Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It is understood that the Minister will make a decision on how much will be transferred before 31 December this year.

John Martin, RSPB NI Senior Conservation Officer commented: “The letter sent to the Minister is quite unique. Almost 70 farmers and agri-businesses are clearly saying that investing in wildlife friendly farming is vital to protect wildlife and habitats, as well as providing a clear and targeted purpose for public money.

“Within Northern Ireland 73 per cent of our countryside is agricultural land and the way in which it is farmed has a massive impact on our wildlife and natural environment. Many farmers are already giving nature a home and this letter to the Minister demonstrates an appetite to continue protecting our natural heritage into the future.”

Jack Kelly, a farmer who signed the letter, added: “As a local farmer I know that I can help restore nature in our countryside – and have been doing so for the past number of years.

“Things have changed dramatically during my time in farming. Species such as the corn bunting and grey partridge used to be regular visitors to our land, now they are a distant memory. I have also seen a sharp decline in butterflies and bees as well as other beneficial insects that help to pollinate and protect my crops.

“I have added my name to the letter to the DARD Minister because I believe that Government should be doing all it can to help protect our wildlife and habitats. I attended an RSPB farm event on 4 November which highlighted how agri-environment schemes are helping to reverse the declines in birds and other wildlife. I recognise that when farmers get help to work their land in a more sustainable way, it is a lifeline for many of our most threatened habitats and species.”

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