Peter Kendall has set out his stall for the coming NFU presidential election. And on it is an old “Dig for Victory” poster, as he positions himself as the champion of production, and the freedom fighter who will loose the shackles of environmental constraints from around the ankles of farmers. As I wrote yesterday, and as Mark Avery has written even more eloquently today, Peter has dismissed the Biodiversity crisis as a sham, a propaganda campaign by the “anti’s”.
But wait! Yesterday Peter implored farmers not to plough permanent pasture, in response to proposals from the European Commission to introduce new rules on permanent pasture in the “greening” of Single Payments. This sounds like some sort of pro-environmental position. What’s going on? Has Peter has a Damascene conversion? Will Peter now leave NFU and join the Rainbow Warrior 3 as a volunteer?
No, its ok, he’s only concerned that farmers will be criticised for environmental damage – as Peter says “if people do see us ploughing up any bit of grass over five years old, we will get environmentalists on our back, and undo some of the good work we’ve done in showing people how well we care for the environment.”
Quite – even though most of the 3.66 Million hectares of permanent pasture in England is improved, there’s a fair (but unknown) amount of semi-improved grassland which is valuable for wildlife, archaeology and other ecosystem services. This is now under threat. As is the 50,000 ha or so of unimproved semi-natural grassland which lies outside the SSSI system.
So take Peter’s advice – keep an eye out for farmers ploughing up permanent pasture in your area and let us know – through here or twitter or our website. Because I have a feeling that not all farmers are going to take Peter’s – on this occasion – wise advice.