Butterfly Conservation believes that the European Parliament has missed a vital opportunity to help safeguard farmland wildlife for the future.
The reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) represent a failure to support more sustainable wildlife friendly farming.
Butterfly Conservation (BC) is now calling for the UK Government to make the best of a bad deal by prioritising agri-environmental schemes and implementing a greening agenda.
Sensitively managed farmland provides a key habitat for many species of widespread and endangered butterflies and moths as well as other wildlife.
Harmful agricultural practices over the last 50 years have placed these precious habitats and the wildlife that depends upon them under increasing pressure. For example numbers of grassland butterflies in Europe have almost halved in 20 years.
The latest reforms of the CAP, a system of agricultural subsidies which operates in a seven-year cycle, offered a rare chance to ensure the best outcomes for farmers, wildlife and the environment.
But with this latest deal the European Parliament has failed to implement more wildlife friendly farming in a move that could jeopardise the greening agenda in the long term.
BC Director of Conservation Nigel Bourn explained: “Now more than ever, as the recent state of Nature report highlights, Britain and Europe needs sustainable, wildlife friendly farming to be at the heart of our agricultural policy.
“The chance to reform the Common Agricultural Policy with genuine change appears to have slipped Europe by. Within the UK we must now ensure that we do the most we possibly can to help our beleaguered wildlife.
“The maximum allowable amount of money needs to be transferred from direct payments to our rural development programmes which remain the most effective way to safeguard the vital public goods that agriculture can and should provide.
“The direct payments must be greened to ensure the maximum environmental return in line with the UK’s long term ambition to phase out this support.
“Our Agri-environmental schemes such as Higher Level Stewardship, are rightly prized across Europe as fantastic examples of what can be achieved with the right focus on demonstrable benefits for local communities and economies as well as wildlife and the countryside and need to be prioritised within the rural development programme.”