Posted: Wednesday 5th October 2016 by ColinsBlog
Lower Smite Farm (c) Caroline Corsie
Colin reflects on this week's launch of a vision for an environment, farming and rural policy...
WWF-UK, National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB this week made the case for fundamental reform of farm policy in the UK so that it works better for nature, farming and rural communities. The essence of this is a call on UK governments to use leaving the European Union as a once in a generation opportunity to help wildlife return across the countryside. More specifically, this proposes an independent Policy Commission, continuation of agri-environment schemes and a new policy for the countryside with high environmental standards for land management.
At face value we could be forgiven for asking “What’s new?” as the sector has been promoting much of this over many years. But, of course, one major factor has changed; leaving the EU (and therefore the Common Agricultural Policy) means the UK can now design its own policy and funding schemes.
So is it realistic to expect a real breakthrough for the environment and wildlife?
Well, there are some promising signs. The noises about the environment emanating from the party conferences are encouraging and suggest that all of the main parties are embracing the broad thrust of our call. The main landowner organisations (NFU and CLA) have their own calls to government, both of which include a strengthening of the delivery of environmental outcomes, with the CLA taking a particularly strong line on this.
Then again I can’t help feeling that it will be all too easy for politicians to consider the environment as a side issue in the great post-Brexit project! Yesterday there were reports of a Conservative MP saying it is likely the public would want to see more money diverted from British agriculture to the NHS. Equally, the NFU’s position on the environment is just one of seven in their pledge. Even so, I do genuinely believe there is a very special opportunity over the next couple of years to influence real and long-lasting change.
This is just the beginning of what will be a very lengthy and challenging campaign for us, but one that is vital for the future of our wildlife. Many of the key decisions will be taken at national level but locally we shall continue work with landowners and farmers, develop our own land-holdings to demonstrate best practice and promote the case for change with our local MPs and other key decision-makers.