Farmer confidence in Natural England falls after wild bird issue

Natural England's 'knee-jerk response' has 'further knocked confidence' in its ability to deliver on its aims
Natural England's 'knee-jerk response' has 'further knocked confidence' in its ability to deliver on its aims

Natural England's decision to revoke General Licences to control pest species of wild birds has 'further knocked farmer confidence' in the body's ability to deliver.

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said the move is 'another blow' for the agriculture sector following last month's revocation of General Licences.

The group said Natural England acted in a 'shambolic way' in response to the legal challenge from the campaign group Wild Justice against the use of the licences.

Since then, numerous farm groups have welcomed both Michael Gove's intervention in taking over control of General Licences and a House of Commons committee which is set to grill Natural England over its handling of the issue.



Recently, the statutory agency has also been under fire for its administration of agri-environment schemes with long delays to scheduled payments and setting up new agreements.

Some 14,000 historic Environmental Stewardship payments remain outstanding and around 8000 Countryside Stewardship payments for 2018 await processing as of March 2019.



'Knee-jerk response'

TFA Farm Policy Adviser, Lynette Steel said the 'knee-jerk response' by Natural England has 'further knocked confidence' in its ability to deliver on its aim of helping to protect the country’s nature and landscapes.

“This is not a matter of recreational shooting but one of protecting food crops, animal welfare, public health and safety and conserving an array of other species under threat from predatory birds, the numbers of which do not appear to be in decline.

“There is no conservation crisis with the birds covered by General Licenses, but the revocation of those licences will cause conservation issues for other species.

“This is a pyrrhic win for the legal action by Wild Justice and the decisions taken by Natural England in response are a victory for process over outcome,” said Ms Lynette.

Defra has launched a call for evidence on the impact of Natural England’s decision to revoke the General Licences. The TFA is urging farmers to engage with this process.

It comes as the Prospect union highlighted how Natural England is struggling with 'under-staffing, reduced budgets and a heavy workload'.