CAP Reform, Greening & Shooting
The results of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy are in the process of being implemented on farms across the UK and we are likely to see one or two changes to the sporting environment during the 2015-16 season. Greening is one of the key policy changes to come out of the CAP reform process and farmers have been tasked with finding a 5% Ecological Focus Area on their land. The options available to farmers are: hedgerows, fallow land, catch/cover crops, buffer strips and nitrogen fixing crops. The main options that will affect the shooting industry are catch/cover crops. The creation of this extra over wintered cover will be beneficial for game management, especially those with resident English partridges. The cover will be in place for the key pairing up period between December and March, allowing the partridges to hide from their predators in whole fields of cover crops. These whole fields of cover will also benefit the French partridge and create good blanking in areas that could be driven over hedges or woodland next to the field. Shoot managers should talk to the farm manager/owner over the next few months to discuss what greening options the farm manager is looking to implement and where possible try to implement these in line with the shoot’s objectives as well as meeting the farm’s objectives.
The past year has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of enquiries relating to taking on sporting rights on farms and estates in East Anglia. It is expected that this will continue into the coming season given the relative improvement in the economy that has been experienced. Historically, sporting rights have traded for circa £4 per acre in East Anglia. However over the past 18 months, with more competition to take on shoots we have noticed a steady increase in the price those prospective tenants are willing to pay. This can add important revenue to a farm or estate business at a time when crop prices are at the lower end of the scale and at a time of reducing farm subsidies. It is important for landlords not to squeeze shoot tenants too much though as the numbers for commercial shoots are tight and it is better to have a consistent, sustainable operation rather than having to change shoot tenants on a regular basis due to the rent being too restrictive. Land owners who have out-going tenants or who have decided to let their sporting rights for the first time will need to get the ball rolling in a timely fashion so that decisions relating to chick/poult purchases, cover crop areas and feed purchases can be made.