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The RSPB and Government Policy (19.9.05)

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RSPB and Government Policy - a letter to the Farmers' Guardian

Letter to the Editor, Farmers Guardian Magazine

Dear Madam
RSPB and Government Policy
Your article on the RSPB (Sept.) calls for an investigation into the credibility of the advice being given by the RSPB, and action being taken by a Government, unique in its hostility to land and wildlife managers.
Diverting production subsidies to environmental schemes and the dictates of a swarm of Government inspectors, is not delivering a rich biologically diverse countryside, or giving the tax payer value for money. Funding in any event cannot be sustained.
In reality the RSPB are assisting in putting our farming, food processing and wildlife management industries out of business, with all the connected loss of crucial skills and valuable resources.
The British Government's target in 1962 was for the creation of the most efficient food production industry in the world. This had been largely achieved, without further overall loss of wildlife habitats, through increased productivity, and massive progress in the quality of wildlife and food friendly farm technologies. Facts which should be accepted by farming's badly informed critics.
Farmers do not need production subsidies when market conditions are favourable. They need a level playing field with their competitors, price stability, and good economic management by Government, rather than being forced out of business by unfair markets and prejudice.
Their competitive position within the EU was seriously disrupted by adverse currency movements. This was for the reason that Margaret Thatcher was able to negotiate the EU rebate on their behalf. However, this annual rebate did not reach the industry, and an over valued pound continues to seriously disadvantage the supply side of the British economy, with farming losing out by an average of some - £3bn per annum.
Each year the British taxpayer has put as much as £15bn into the pockets of EU farmers and the richest countries provide some £216bn of food subsidies around the world. Most countries provide a range of fiscal incentives, discretionary payments and other advantages, in addition to food production subsidies, which are not enjoyed in Britain.
By removing annual production subsidies of some £2bn, our economically disadvantaged British farming and food processing industries will be closed down by cheap foreign imports. This is inevitable if Britain remains at the bottom of the EU league table on agricultural earnings.
Many professional land and wildlife managers see the RSPB as responsible for poor quality research, over specialisation, misplaced criticism, and hostile campaigns against well established good management practices and practitioners.
Severe predation by badgers and foxes, and some 26 other growing predator species, impacting on declining prey species, are ignored, as is record levels of human disturbance of farming and wildlife, and increase in diseases. Their management track record in areas such as mid-Wales has been catastrophic, primarily through the removal of patch work burning and livestock, and the failure to control predators.
With all their resources the RSPB has had little net impact on the continuing decline of bird species, and have stood by whilst large areas of the countryside have been turned into avian deserts.
Problems are compounded through their involvement in the Foreign Policy Centre. This was set up by Robin Cook when Home Secretary and Tony Blair. Former RSPB advisor Vicky Swales and Lord Haskins were assisted, with funding from the RSPB.
The Foreign Policy Centre seeks to provide a fair deal for third world farmers, a noble cause. By complaining about agricultural subsidies in Britain, and promoting and supporting Government policy in removing them, it is plain wrong.
Consequently there has been no fair deal at home, and through failures to understand basic agricultural issues, no fair deals for farm production in the third world. Everybody loses.
Edmund Marriage - British Wildlife Management

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