We did some sums the other day to look at how much financial investment the RSPB has put into trying to get the farmland bird index heading upwards. The answer is a large amount of money but the index still refuses to head upwards!
However, our £16m investment, over 10 years in England, in farmland bird research, advisors working with farmers, the Volunteer and Farmer Alliance and targetted species recovery projects (just on those 19 species which contribute to the farmland bird index) is tiny in comparision with the £450m or so spent on agri-environment schemes per annum in England and the £1,600m per annum spent on Single Farm Payments. Interestingly, the English SFP payments are about 1000 times our spend over the same period. It's easy to see that the RSPB is David to the CAP's Goliath!
The figures I have used here for the RSPB do not include our advocacy work nor any reserves purchase.
However, it is worth pointing out that our Volunteer and Farmer Alliance project has cost us around £2.5m over the last ten years. Over 4,000 UK farmers have received free bird surveys of their farms and been pointed in the direction of information on land management to favour farmland wildlife. That is a massive investment by us in individual farmers, but it has been worth it, as many have responded by doing an extra little bit for wildlife once they were told that they had tree sparrows on their land or that curlews were really special.
And we have had thanks from individual farmers for this support and help. But when the going gets tough financially this looks a bit like an area which could be cut. But we won't - unless we absolutely have to - because we believe that farmland birds are a top priority and that working with the farming community is a top priority too. But when I am told, as sometimes I am, that the RSPB is anti-farmer I think of our investment and shake my head.
Sooty - I'm sorry you are so cross. The money that farmers get, and the RSPB gets too, in farm subsidies comes from taxes on the EU population so it is perfectly fair for anyone to be interested in how it is spent and what they get from it. We should, perhaps, think of it as a contract between Society Nd the farming community? And the RSPB is a great supporter of payments to farmers - but we believe, as do many others, that this level of public investment deserves a decent return on investment. And that is what the policy debate is about.
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