Green Brexit at Westminster

GREEN BREXIT BRINGS OPPORTUNITY

With Defra boss Michael Gove having set out his image of a ‘Green Brexit’ in 2018, it is worth considering the impact this will have on shooting and the wider industry. The Government is keen to encourage farmers to more proactively engage with conservation projects; and the new Agricultural Bill will seek to reward rather than compensate good works which benefit people and the environment. 

Inevitably, this will lead to farmers sowing more stewardship crops for farmland birds and pollinators, as well as taking part in a greater number of supplementary feeding programmes. Could this ‘Green Brexit’ also lead to an increase in shoots run by farmers? Or to an increase in smaller shoots in general?

Keepers Choice’s national sales and marketing manager, Richard Leach, suggests: “If farmers are going to see an increase in payments for conservation and environmental schemes in general, then  more land going into these schemes should encourage an increase in farm shoots, whether syndicated or otherwise.  Many of the game and conservation crops now available are designed to feed farmland birds, so it all fits together nicely.”

“It is likely that the position post-Brexit will also see an increase in smaller shoots being set up as well as smaller existing shoots putting down more birds, and further enhancing the habitat through various schemes”.

It is worth considering how a ‘Green Brexit’ and the new Agricultural Bill and its payment policies will affect the bigger, more established shoots. It is important to note, as many will be aware, that the implementation of stewardship and supplementary feeding schemes is nothing new and therefore many of the larger shoots will already be embracing Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Countryside Stewardship. However, the new bill and its commitment to a ‘Green Brexit’ is seeing a wider understanding and greater promotion of these schemes. This will almost certainly lead to large estates entering either new or existing schemes because of the financial incentive, and new shoots are also likely to emerge in this way.

Stewardship crops will increase following a Gren Brexit
A stewardship mixture – ‘Pheasant & Finch’ – from Bright Seeds

A key benefit of more shoots being established, whether large or small, is the opportunities that are created. Quite simply, more opportunity means an increased number of new entrants into shooting – which can only be a good thing. This could lead to a further increase of youth and female shots, two groups that are already on the rise.

Richard Leach points out that, “Any shoot is reliant on the beaters and for the most part the beating and picking up teams are made up of retired individuals who are active and interested in being out in the countryside: an increase in shoot numbers would encourage more people to beat and pick up. Retired people who beat or pick up must be one of the fittest groups of retirees in the country”.

As a company, Keeper Choice is well placed to facilitate this potential increase, and we would welcome the business and the opportunity to see new entrants within the industry. Mr. Leach, a veteran of the industry for over thirty years, suggests: “Keepers Choice has an experienced sales team to advise new entrants into shooting – we have several mills and distribution points and an excellent transport network delivering feed from one tonne upwards”.

An increase in the number of shoots is good news for the industry, but there is a note of caution. The first is regulation, or over-regulation. If Mr Gove’s ‘Green Brexit’ is deliverable and farmers are paid on results, presumably areas would need to be inspected, no doubt requiring an army of civil servants. There is the possibility that these inspections could trespass into other areas of shooting. We know that responsible gamekeepers and shoot owners are more than capable of regulating themselves and their own shoots, and it is important this continues.

The second point to watch is, what happens to the bag? There has been a lot of work done recently to ensure the bag goes to good use:  The Country Food Trust feeding people in need is a good example. Smaller shoots do generally have an easier time of finding a home for shot game and it could create a greater opportunity for small shoots to supply local markets and butchers.

There is no doubt that Michael Gove’s ‘Green Brexit’ presents many positives. If delivered properly the industry will be able to create habitats and conservation areas that benefit the environment even more so than it currently does. For example, according to Countryfile on Sunday January 13, 2019, a farm which embraced a supplementary feeding scheme (approx. 400 acres) over a ten-year period saw species of bird double to over twenty and numbers increased ten-fold whilst the rest of the land was farmed with a healthy profit – demonstrating how well such schemes can integrate into a working farm.

To read Michael Gove’s full keynote speech on his vision, please follow the link – https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/green-brexit-a-new-era-for-farming-fishing-and-the-environment

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