Hope is a small word, yet one which carries huge meaning: nothing less than our dreams and aspirations for the kind of life we want to lead and the kind of world we want to live in.

Hope is also the name of a farm in Cambridgeshire where the RSPB puts into practice what it preaches about wildlife-friendly farming.  Here, on 181 hectares of prime arable land, we have not only increased our crop yields but we’ve also seen a 200% increase in farmland birds that, in other areas, are rapidly disappearing from our countryside. 

Hope Farm by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

And we are not alone; farmers right across our region and the rest of the UK are achieving similarly fantastic results through adopting wildlife-friendly farming practices.  But, as we have already blogged about here, none of this could be achieved without the funding support of agri-environment schemes.

A huge amount of our money, yours and mine, goes into the EU Budget and the vast majority of that goes to the Common Agriculture Policy (find our wildlife-friendly farming FAQ here). Yet only a tiny pot of that money goes towards rural development and agri-environment schemes, despite those areas providing the greatest value for money and the greatest return on investment in terms of natural services such as clean air and water, carbon storage and pollinating insects.

Hoverfly by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

But surely the true value of our environment goes above and beyond whatever economic price tag we pin on our countryside.  What price would you put on the soaring song of the skylark that so lifts the heart, or the soft purr of a turtle dove that so few people now get to hear? And what price would you pay to bring them back if we allow them to disappear?

Whenever our Government is faced with yet another decision with major implications for the environment I can’t help but be hopeful that maybe this time they will make the right choice.  Not just because it makes economic sense, or because it will increase their poll ratings, but because it is the right thing to do.

In the name of hope for a better world we have fought for freedom, democracy, the abolition of slavery and the right to vote. It is time to fight for our environment. David Cameron has one last chance to ensure the EU Budget delivers real benefits for our rural communities and countryside, please ask him to Vote for Nature.