UK farmers’ leaders welcome “evidence-based” Government strategy for bees

Environment Secretary Liz Truss is set to announce a bee strategy.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss is set to announce a bee strategy. - Credit: PA

Farmers’ leaders say they are supportive of an “evidence-based” Government strategy for bees and other pollinators set to be outlined today.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss is set to spell out Government’s National Pollinator Strategy for England.

Environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth also welcomed the strategy.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond said: “The NFU is supportive of the strategy that Liz Truss will reveal today as we recognise the importance of pollinators to our food supply.

“Bees and other pollinators make a crucial contribution to food production and the wider environment through the pollination of many crops and wild plants. “While we agree that this strategy will go some way to helping our pollinator populations to thrive, it is important to remember that they are being challenged by a range of factors including habitat loss, pests and diseases, climate change and chemicals they encounter in the environment, such as pesticides. The evidence shows clearly that we can’t single out just one cause of pollinator declines.

“A real strength of the strategy is that it is evidence based. In fact, that evidence shows we do not even know whether our bees and pollinators are still in decline. We know the diversity of our pollinators declined up until the 1980s, but in the last 20 years those declines have slowed or even reversed. We have no idea what the current status of our pollinators is terms of actual numbers of insects, and whether this is declining, stable or increasing. That is why we believe it is critically important that the strategy puts in place a comprehensive national pollinator and pollination monitoring programme.

“No community is doing more to help bees than farming. In 2014, 450,000 hectares were managed under a variety of unpaid Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) environmental measures and, as part of this, farmers provided 8,000 hectares of flowers for pollinators including wildflower mix, pollen and nectar mix, and flower-rich temporary grass.

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“On top of this, this year, the CFE has delivered nearly 40 pollinator themed farm walks and events reaching over 900 farmers across the country. It is also working closely with the rest of the industry to offer subsidised pollen and nectar mixes to farmers. The NFU is hugely encouraged by the fact farming is already delivering for pollinators on a greater scale than any other industry or initiative.

“We also recognise the importance of the role of the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme and the NFU is committed to continuing to work with the Department for the Environment,Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England in the development of the this scheme and how it will be implemented on the ground.”

The National Pollinator Strategy published today [Tuesday 4 November 2014] is a major step towards protecting the nation’s bees, said Friends of the Earth, which led the campaign for a bee action plan. But the environment charity warned that ministers must still do more to boost greener farming practices and reduce the threat from pesticides.

Friends of the Earth’s senior nature campaigner Paul de Zylva said: “This bee strategy shows that people power works – it has been introduced because thousands of people, organisations and politicians across the UK have stung the Government into action.

“The National Pollinator Strategy will make a significant contribution to safeguarding Britain’s bees – but ministers must still get tougher on pesticides and do more to boost bee-friendly farming as 70% of our land is farmed.

“Bees and other pollinators are vital for safeguarding our food and countryside. Everyone has a role to play – we cannot afford to jeopardise their future.”

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