Am travelling to Brimingham for the Liberal Democrat conference.  I am looking forward to it!  Party conference season always offers a few surprises and I am sure this year will be no exception.  Tonight, I am speaking on a panel about the planning reforms.  I am looking for support for the NGO campaign to remove the economic bias which threatens to undermine existing wildlife protection.  Given that the Liberal Democrats have stewardship of the environment written into their constitution, I am hopeful of a strong response.  And if they come out strongly against the reforms, I am sure that they will be given a pat on the back by the electorate. 

I think that it is fair to say that we all like to get a pat on the back from time to time.  So, how are the finalists of our Nature of Farming Award winners are feeling?  Collectively they have just received over 22,000 pats on the back for their work stepping up for nature - the public voting for the coverted title of the UK’s most wildlife friendly farmer.  And the winner is? Well you can find out who won here.  Needless to say, having created and restored key habitats such as native woodland, wetland, peat bog and moorland their farm is an example to us all.  Wildlife has flourished, and includes field gentian, wood bitter vetch, corncrake and curlew and a host of invertebrates; including more than 300 species of moths and butterflies.  Farming and conservation can go hand-in-hand.

It is great, with our partners Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the Daily Telegraph, to be able to profile the work of all the finalists in this year’s competition.  The quality was so high this year we created a new “highly commended” category.   Whilst any competition has an ultimate winner, this time I am pleased to say, it isn’t simply an individual farm – it is all the wildlife which finds itself living on any of these farms.  The passion and commitment of all these farmers is an inspiration to all of us – it certainly is to me.  So I hope they won’t mind, this is one more pat on the back from me!

And, as for the Lib Dems? I'll let you know tomorrow...