EPICENTRE - the newsletter for Exmoor Ponies in Conservation

Exmoor Ponies in Conservation Newsletter

Issue 1 Article 16

FROM THE LOBBIES........

A little hot news from the lobbies, courtesy of David Lovelace. David worked as a consultant on the production of the WWF -UK's report to the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee in 1996.

SUBMISSION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE

Extracts from the Review of Agri-environment schemes in UK and recommendations from WWF May 1996

3. Regulation 2078/92: constraints, opportunities and utilisation in UK.

3.1 This regulation allows for the first time the Guarantee (i.e. demand led) section of CAP to pay for environmental actions under the 'accompanying measures' provisions of the 1992 CAP reform.

Recipients of scheme aid mention only farmers and farming practices, potentially excluding the increasing numbers of non farming individuals and organisations which own and mange land of ecological and heritage importance.

The UK has responded with a fair range of schemes covering a number of habitat and countryside types. There are however many elements of 2078/92 which remain either under utilised or ignored completely in the UK.

3.3 Rare Breeds

Article 1(d) "to rear rare animals of local breeds in danger of extinction"

This is a seriously neglected issue by both conservation bodies and Government. Predictability, high input productivity and universal Artificial Insemenation has led to a considerable narrowing of the genetic base for the main lines of UK livestock at the same time as many traditional and regionally distinct livestock varieties have disappeared or have been reduced to very low numbers. Traditional breeds have often been developed in extensive systems in a variety of geographic locations. Many have grazing behaviour, herd character and hardiness well suited for the maintenance of biodiverse habitats.

Maintaining genetic variety increases the future breeding options for unforeseen future circumstances. The Rare Breeds Survival trusts reports that are now only 300 breeding pure original Herefords. The Dexter cattle breed is mainly used in extensive suckler systems and is believed not to have had a recorded BSE case. The current BSE crisis risked wiping out the currently viable core and other much rarer breeds all of which are irreplaceable.

Recommendation 2:

Introduce under Article 1(d) a scheme to support rare breeds programmes and to maintain viable core herds of minor breeds in the UK. Encourage exchange of ideas and schemes with other EU countries, in particular the countries of Eastern Europe which still retain the greatest number of threatened traditional livestock breeds.

In the second report of the AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS on 'Environmentally Sensitive Areas and other Schemes under the Agri-Environment Regulation' 1996-97, section 80, Recommendation 20 states:-

"We recommend that MAFF undertake a consultative exercise to determine the level of support for the inclusion of aid to preserve rare breeds in its agri-environment programme."

In the response by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in July 1997, states:-

42. The European Commission made clear during negotiations on the agri-environment regulation that they saw this option applying where the preservation of a traditional environmentally beneficial farming system was dependent on continued grazing by a traditional breed. The government are not aware of any area where this is the case. MAFF will consult members of the National Agri-Environment Forum and other interested organisations, such as the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, on whether there are cases for further consideration in England.

Ed.-If your experience is anything like ours - we know a song about that........

    The person to sing it to is -

    Mr. J P Garnier

    Room 419 (West Block)

    MAFF

    3 Whitehall Place

    LONDON

    SW1A 2HH