I applied to the EFS Wider Scheme in Tranche 2 and established 1ha of Winter Feed Crop for Wild Birds in an effort to do my bit for farmland birds, many of which are in decline. The five-year agreement saw me establish this 1ha each year and to my delight the number of birds (and insects) on the farm increased massively.
Flocks of various finches, tits and stonechats fed on the triticale, mustard, linseed and quinoa seeds over the winter period but unfortunately on 31 December 2023 my five-year agreement will end.
The reality in a complex ecosystem is that it is not only the birds that will suffer from lack of an annual food source but the wider habitat which has allowed a food chain to develop for insects and smaller mammals such as shrews and mice and their larger predators.
DAERA have not given consideration to the dismantling of this food chain as a result of lack of planning and an orderly transition from the EFS Wider Scheme to the new Farming With Nature scheme.
Under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011, it is the duty of every public body to further the conservation of biodiversity.
There was a Biodiversity Strategy for NI to 2020 but as yet in 2023 I have not seen the most recent version.
I and many other farmers are keen to “do our bit” for biodiversity decline and climate change and help to meet targets but unfortunately DAERA is slow to come forward with details on this new scheme.
It is ironic that the very Department responsible for implementing climate legislation and biodiversity strategies is holding those farmers back who want to plant more hedges, fence off and protect watercourses and continue to feed wild birds and pollinators.
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