The government has been warned by conservationists that environmental measures in the countryside could be damaged by budget cuts.
A letter has been signed by 16 conservationist groups that advises the DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman to protect the agri-environment schemes of England.
“We are concerned to hear of proposals to cut the budget available for the delivery of agri-environment schemes in England,” the letter reads.
“We understand that the financial situation is grave and that DEFRA has been asked to contribute to the reduction in the budget deficit, but undertaking cuts that will compromise the ability of government to deliver its stated objectives cannot be the correct route.
“We believe that agri-environment schemes must be protected.”
The Farming and Wildlife Group (FWAG), the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the RSPB are included in the signatories to the letter.
Brussels have money brought in by environment schemes which helps water supplies, carbon stores, wildlife, landscapes and historical sites to be protected by farmers.
Any cut in domestic funding would result in Brussels losing further money because of the way they are structured.
£6 is additionally allocated from the Common Agricultural Policy for every £4 spent by the UK government on agri-environment schemes.
Much of the additional funding will be entirely lost to the UK economy and returned to Europe if the government withdraws its support.
“The impacts would be felt most severely in vulnerable and already disadvantaged rural areas where agri-environment funding injects much needed support to farm and other rural businesses,” warns the letter.
Landscapes, history and wildlife resulting from farming activities are relied on by public access to and enjoyment of the countryside. As do many rural business that rely on the countryside visitors.
“We therefore urge you to discard any further reductions to the agri-environment scheme budget that you are considering.”
To the environment, farming, and the wider public who value and depend on our countryside, the schemes are highly important.
The Moorland Association, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, The Woodland Trust, Buglife, Campaign for National Parks, The Grasslands Trust, The Council for British Archaeology, British Trust for Ornithology, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Open Spaces Society, Association of Rivers Trusts and the Wildlife Trusts are the other signatories included.