It certainly works; effective use of agri-environmental scheme funding has increased numbers of many birds. This increase seems to have halted, perhaps the land has reached its carrying capacity. Guy asked, is this the same carrying capacity that it would have had in the past? I thought not. At my dad's farm, there was straw scattered all over the place, farms were untidy then at levels that would be intolerable now. Ian Newton once told me that untidy farms were probably important food resources for seed eating birds, and so the new standards of hygiene are a set back for some kinds of wildlife. Yet the strips of bird food crops used by RSPB are designed to help redress this balance, so who knows?
Work at Hope Farm to support wildlife is funded through the Common Agricultural Policy. In my recent study of sustainable intensification with ADAS, we found that farmers were happy to support wildlife on their farms, but only if someone paid for it. Support from the CAP cannot be guaranteed for ever, so should we be looking at support from the supply chain? Should we people who buy food help pay?
This approach is being developed by the Fair to Nature Farming / Conservation Grade programme, that gives accreditation for biodiversity conservation on working farms, which involves committing at least 10 % of the farmed area to managed habitats. Allison's flour is perhaps the largest brand that carries this accreditation.
This is only one approach to the wider issue of accreditation for the wider sustainability of a farm - but that's a story for another day.