The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a critical support mechanism for both farmers and the wildlife of Europe.
The recent reform of the CAP was a disappointment to Butterfly Conservation and other wildlife NGOs because it failed to put more support into High Nature Value (HNV) farming that is so crucial in maintaining key butterfly and moth habitats across Europe.
But, the reform allowed for some flexibility amongst Member States in the amount of money they can transfer between pillar 1 - which provides production subsidies to farmers and pillar 2 -which provides support for rural development such agri-environment schemes.
Butterfly Conservation believed that it was vital to switch the full 15% into rural development, and especially to support agri-environment schemes that have helped save butterflies like the Marsh Fritillary that rely on certain type of livestock grazing.
We are very disappointed that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Patterson, has decided only to transfer only 12% of payments into Pillar 2 for rural development and environment. The situation in Scotland is worse, with only 9.5% transferred. But, there was some rare good news in Wales where the Assembly agreed to transfer the full 15%, and there is a stated intention for Defra to transfer the full 15% in future years.
Low intensity farming is vital to maintain the flower-rich grasslands on which many butterflies depend. It is very disappointing that the Government did not take this opportunity to support farming schemes that are helping maintain biodiversity in the UK. It is important that all funds transferred are now used to help reverse the drastic declines in butterflies and other wildlife.
BC has worked with Natural England to develop good options within the Environmental Stewardship Scheme that have reversed the decline of the Marsh Fritillary in some parts of southern England. Our advisors in Scotland have also worked with farmers to ensure suitable grazing management on 3,000 hectares of Marsh Fritillary habitat under the Scottish Rural Developed Programme (SRDP). You can read our evidence here
A more detailed reply to Defra’s consultation by Wildlife and Countryside Link can be seen here
Government statements can be read here:
Dr Martin Warren
Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive