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Government proposals must trigger change on farmed land

Posted: Wednesday 3rd October 2018 by ColinsBlog

Lower Smite Farm wide field margin (c) Zoe StevensLower Smite Farm wide field margin (c) Zoe Stevens

Colin discusses the recently published Agriculture Bill...

During September the Government published the Agriculture Bill. This the first in a series of key legislative changes, which will include the publishing of an Environment Bill and a Fisheries Bill over coming months.  All are key drivers in the delivery of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, so this a real opportunity to secure effective legislation and resources for nature’s recovery, and agricultural policy will determine how 70% of land is farmed.

As the Bill progresses through Parliament, The Wildlife Trusts will be highlighting:

  • The recovery of wildlife in the UK depends on an Agriculture Bill that enables farmers to create and restore natural habitats.
  • Farmers should receive public money for producing benefits to society, such as creating habitats for wildlife, conserving soils for future generations and protecting communities against flooding.
  • Successful farms need thriving wildlife because crops depend on pollination, natural pest control and healthy soils.

So, as conservationists we support the Agriculture Bill’s intention to change how taxpayers’ money will be spent towards environmental ‘public goods’. Spending on these is vital if we are to restore uplands to hold water and prevent flooding in towns, create new wildflower meadows for pollinators and improve the fortunes of farmland wildlife like barn owls and brown hares. However, we need an ambitious Bill to arrest decades of wildlife decline and allow natural ecosystems to recover.

The Treasury must support the investment in our life support system – in nature, our land and our countryside – at a substantially higher level.

The Government has stated its intention to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation. The Wildlife Trusts believe that the only way to do this is to commit to targets for the recovery of the natural environment – this requires agreement from the Treasury.

Poll after poll reports that the public want more support for nature-friendly farming and a recent independent assessment confirmed that to meet its own commitments on the environment, the Government would need to invest at least £2.3bn each year in environmental land management alone. It’s time that the Treasury acknowledged that the public want to see tangible change to meet the scale of the challenge that lies ahead.

We also welcome the announcements on transition funding, which will provide farmers with some very welcome certainty over the next few years around environmental schemes. Even though the design of a new Environmental Land Management Scheme is well underway, we are pleased that the current Higher Level Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship schemes will be available through the transition period.

The Government has listened to The Wildlife Trusts and others to provide reassurance for farmers that there will be no gap between schemes. They can now more confidently make business decisions that do not reverse decades of good work to help wildlife.

I shall be writing to our MPs in Worcestershire, urging them to ensure that the necessary funding is in place to reward farmers and land managers who are delivering nature’s recovery. If you would like to add your voice, please write to your MP too.

Put simply, agriculture policy does not have to choose between wildlife versus food production. Farming that works with nature makes sense – for now and for the future.

You can read the Agriculture Bill on Parliament's website.


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