FARMERS and wildlife campaigners in Suffolk are calling on the Government to protect funding for wildlife conservation during this week’s EU budget negotiations.

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The RSPB said drastically declining species such as skylark, turtle dove and lapwing depend on wildlife-friendly farming – with farmers entering into funded agri-environment schemes – for their survival.

The charity said it is fearful that potential cuts to European and domestic budgets could put such wildlife under greater threat.

Paul Forecast, the RSPB’s director in the East said: “The EU budget is under enormous pressure, in fact the odds for it being cut are probably so short you wouldn’t waste the bus fare to the bookies. But EU leaders have to demonstrate that there are bits of the budget that simply must not be cut.

“This isn’t about needing more money, but about making sure that the existing money is spent in more efficient ways, delivering genuine public value for public money.”

Suffolk farmer James Bucher said: “I am stepping up for nature on my farm, but I need the help and support of Government and the EU to create and manage areas for public benefits.

“With a cut in these funds many farmers will not be able to help farm wildlife and, as a result, some of the most beautiful wildlife and countryside will change irreversibly for the worse.”

The RSPB has written to David Cameron urging him to defend the schemes when he attends the European Heads of State meeting in Brussels later this week.

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