'Now is the time for significant changes in our farmed landscape', says Holkham's new conservation manager
PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:04 23 October 2018
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Environmental change is needed on a landscape scale ahead of an "impending agricultural revolution", says JAKE FIENNES, the new conservation manager at the 25,000-acre Holkham Estate.
This has been a year in which we were told there were no butterflies in Hampshire, a year when we were told swift numbers were in decline and a year when we were told farmers and land managers will only get support on the delivery of public goods.
The farmed landscape must change to address this and deliver tangible benefits to the flora and fauna that we share our farmed landscape with.
Already out there are farmers and land managers doing amazing things – halting species decline and in some cases increasing populations locally.
Farmers have their critics, sadly through no fault of their own. They have lived and worked with the demands of wartime and 40 years of CAP [the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy] regulation and have adapted their businesses to these models out of necessity.
However, now is the time for significant changes in our farmed landscape. Farmers and land managers must grasp this opportunity to demonstrate to the wider public that they can produce high-quality, high-yielding food alongside high-yielding nature conservation.
Farmers must consider environmental delivery as a crop – no different to sugar beet, rape or potatoes. They have the ability, they have the tools and they need to share their knowledge and experiences to encourage delivery from the uplands to the lowlands.
We must acknowledge the many farmers out there doing great things for the environment and not forgetting that these farmers are also working hard to feed a population of 65.5 million and growing.
As with all radical changes in policy, there will be winners and losers. As an industry we must seek to limit this where possible and except the inevitable when necessary.
The decision of Lord Leicester and Peter Mitchell at Holkham to create a role solely dedicated to the delivery of environmental public goods across a sizeable acreage, is quite clearly innovative and something which Holkham has a history of – promoting the Norfolk four-course rotation and instigating the first agricultural shows. This sends out a message to others that this is clearly the direction the agriculture sector is heading in.
We must still produce sustainable food on productive land, but deliver biodiversity on the less productive land we were encouraged to farm through the CAP.
Farmers and land managers have to be at the forefront, they have to drive this and deliver this. They must captain this ship of change as they are the ones at the coalface of 70pc of the English countryside.
• Jake Fiennes, formerly estate manager of the Raveningham Estate, is the new general manager for conservation at Holkham and also the NFU Environment Forum’s East Anglia representative.