Skylark Alauda arvensis, at the grassy edge of a small field. Cornwall

Agricultural policy and farmland wildlife

Farmland birds are those which rely on farmland for food and nesting sites. The RSPB aims to ensure that farmland provides what is needed for birds and other biodiversity.

Farming for wildlife

As farming practices have changed and new technologies have developed, farming no longer automatically provides the same amount of food and quality of habitat for birds and other wildlife that it once did.

One of the main drivers of these changes has been agriculture policy at a European and domestic level, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Previously focused on increasing production, these have led to the intensification of farming and removal of habitats, precipitating the decline of farmland wildlife. 

Small scale trials of potential solutions to farmland bird decline before use in larger scale research trials or agri-environment scheme options at RSPB Hope Farm

Our team in the UK

We have a team working on agriculture across the UK. They liaise with farmers, the farming industry, UK and devolved governments and experts in farmland wildlife to try to reverse these declines.

An important part of this work is advocating changes and improvements to agricultural policy with the aim to help improve the prospects for farmland wildlife - such as increasing the resources dedicated to agri-environment work.

We own a number of farms and 230 square kilometres of our nature reserves are farmed in some way, allowing us to put policy into practice. RSPB information and advice also helps farmers to manage their land with wildlife in mind. Our scientists carry out £500,000 worth of research every year to find more ways to help farmland birds and help build the evidence base for future policies.

In addition to our work in the UK, we work with our BirdLife International Partners in every European country and in Brussels to protect Europe’s farmed countryside, and influence the development of agricultural policy at the European level. 

What about the future?

We understand that farmland birds will not have a secure future without farmers and viable farming businesses.

Agricultural policy is the best way to make sure all farmers can access the right tools to be able to make space for nature in their land. 

The RSPB wants agricultural policy to benefit the farming community, taxpayers who provide farming subsidies and everyone who cares about the countryside. The best way to do this is to use agricultural policy to build a more sustainable farming system, which rewards more environmentally friendly farming practices, thus helping to secure farmland wildlife for the long term.