The publication of three new general licences means farmers and growers will now have the much-needed tools to protect their crops from being damaged or livestock being attacked by common bird species that are growing in population on farms, the NFU said today.
NFU Deputy President Guy Smith said: “Since the withdrawal of the general licences in April the NFU has been campaigning for their reinstatement, supported by our members who have shared experiences and images of the horrendous impacts crows can have on lambs and pigeons on arable crops.
“Hundreds of NFU members submitted evidence to help form the organisation’s response to Defra’s call for evidence on the impact the withdrawal had on farm businesses.
“The important role general licences play for farmers cannot be understated. When they were removed, the impact pigeons and crows had on crops and livestock was devastating and we are continuing to hear that farmers are having other issues, for example rooks damaging spring barley. It is vital that farmers have the ability to control these birds.
“The NFU made its case to the highest levels of Defra and to the Secretary of State and stressed that rectifying this situation had to be a priority. I am pleased that Defra have taken this on board and delivered on much of our feedback.
“It is positive for farmers that the licences once again include species such as rooks and magpies, and it would appear that the new licences seem to be practical and fit for purpose for our members.
“However, we do see the potential confusion for farmers who control birds in or near protected sites. In this situation, they may have to rely on other licences and it is imperative that the licensing system is clear, unambiguous and farmers have the tools they require to carry out control.
“While overall this is good news, there is still much more work to be done as Defra consult on a new general licences regime for 2020 and beyond.
“The hundreds of responses we have had from farmers and growers illustrates the strength of feeling on this issue. It is important to remember that for farmers this is about protecting our livestock and our crops. This is an essential tool for farm businesses, which enables them to produce safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”