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    Search for UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer underway

    NewsWednesday 20 February 2013
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    The annual search for the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer has begun and is being undertaken by the RSPB yet again. 

    The winner will be awarded the Nature of Farming Award, which celebrates those farmers who are working the hardest to help the threatened countryside wildlife. Such wildlife includes skylarks, brown hares, bees, butterflies and plants. 
     
    The award is run by the RSPB, is sponsored by The Telegraph, and it is also supported by Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation.
     
    Henry Edmunds was the winner of the award last year when he narrowly saw off the three other finalists with his organic farm in Wiltshire. His farm hosts an array of rare birds, bumblebees, moths and butterflies. 
     
    Speaking to the RSPB he said: “I have witnessed our landscape deteriorate over the last 30 years - birds have disappeared, butterflies have been lost, and ancient grasslands ploughed up.  I wanted my farming policies to reverse those trends.
     
    “To do without wildlife is not an option. We all have a responsibility to maintain it and help it flourish, not sacrifice it for greater commercial yields.  We need to step back, look sensibly at the way we farm and try to make it more sustainable and better for the environment in the long run.”
     
    People are free to apply for this year’s award and applications will be accepted until the 18th April. There is always a high volume of entries with numbers increasing year on year and the RSPB is hoping that this year will be the best yet. 
     
    Once the closing date arrives, the judges will then select eight regional winners, and then a panel of experts will have to decide on which four should then head through to the national finals. There will also be a highly commended category, which will recognise the efforts of farmers who have excelled in their support of farmland wildlife. 
     
    When the competition gets to its final stage, the judging will be shifted to the UK public, as they decide the overall winner. People will then be able to cast their votes online, over the phone, via The Telegraph, or at country shows throughout the summer. 
     
    RSPB Head of Conservation Management and one of this year’s judges, Nick Droy, said: “More and more farmers are recognising that running a profitable farm business and helping wildlife on your land can go hand in hand.  The RSPB provides advice to help farmers do their bit for nature on their farm and we'll support them every step of the way, but ultimately, it’s them and their local communities that do the hard work. They’re the real heroes.
     
    “The recent EU Budget deal dealt a terrible hand to Europe’s wildlife, with potentially huge cuts to wildlife friendly farming schemes. But there is hope for the UK, a country which has led the way in investing in this field. If Owen Paterson and his colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show leadership and use their powers wisely to ensure that as much funding as possible will go towards those farmers and land managers who provide the greatest benefits for wildlife and the countryside, then all will not be lost.
     
    “In excess of 30,000 RSPB supporters lobbied David Cameron to vote for Nature at the European Budget meeting by voting for a favourable outcome for wildlife. We hope the Prime Minister and his Environment Secretary have taken notice of this.”
     
    The judging panel for this year’s award will be:
     
    Nick Droy - RSPB Head of Conservation Management Advice
    Martin Warren – Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive
    Victoria Chester – Plantlife Chief Executive
    Fergus Collins – Countryfile Magazine
     
    All the details on how to enter can be found on the RSPB website at – www.rspb.org.uk/natureoffarming
     
    Picture: Scott Robinson
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