New report shows future farming needs the environment after Brexit

Today the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition has said that the best way to secure a future for English farming after Brexit is to put the environment at the centre of any new agricultural policy.

Cattle grazing on land at Pentire Head, Cornwall ©Ross Hoddinott

Through the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition, twenty seven organisations, including the National Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPCA, argue that the current rules, known as Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), are outdated and over-complicated. They fail to adequately support and reward farmers for managing land in a way that benefits wildlife, helps improve water quality and provides flood prevention.

The new proposals for a Sustainable Farming and Land Management policy for England offer a positive vision for a replacement for the CAP after the UK has left the European Union (EU), presenting a compelling case for continued public investment in farming.

“Leaving the EU presents an opportunity to establish an ambitious and environmentally responsible farming policy. We need to create a situation in which sustainable and forward-looking farm businesses can thrive and deliver what the nation and the public want, within a framework of protection and restoration of all aspects of our precious natural and historic environment.”

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust.

Flock of sheep near Hadrian’s Wall at Bellister, Northumberland ©Chris Lacey

“The Common Agricultural Policy has driven farming in England in an unsustainable direction for too long. We can now reverse this trend, and we welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to a ‘Green Brexit’, and his recognition of the key role that farming and land management can play.”

Jenna Hegarty, Head of Land Use Policy at the RSPB

Several other organisations such as the Country Land and Business Association and Sustain have recently published proposals that also highlight the need to direct more funding toward restoring the environment and improving animal welfare, supporting the general principles of these new proposals. Just yesterday, the Natural Capital Committee, official advisers to Government, added their voice to this, calling for public money to be invested in ‘natural capital assets’. This demonstrates an emerging consensus about the need for continued funding to secure ‘public goods’.

“Focusing future farming and land management payments on the environment is not just essential to secure the Government’s aims under the 25 year Environment Plan, it also offers the long-term certainty and clarity that farming needs”.

Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link

Asparagus farm at Formby, Liverpool ©John Millar

The future of farming is bound up with the future of nature: without adequate support for a healthy and beautiful environment, the long term viability of farming is in question.

Brexit will lead to significant impacts for farming and the environment that must be managed carefully, and these new proposals will be essential in helping farmers to transition to a new system of agricultural payments, according to the coalition.

“Our vision for the future of farming in England is for a productive, sustainable sector that delivers high welfare, quality food, as part of a vibrant, thriving and wildlife rich countryside. A future policy with the environment at its core will be essential in achieving this.”

Jenna Hegarty, Head of Land Use Policy at the RSPB

The twenty seven organisations will use these proposals in their ongoing conversations with farmers, government and other stakeholders, and have urged the Government to use the upcoming Agriculture Bill to secure a policy in England that helps realise its ambition of restoring the natural environment within a generation.

Interested?

Take a look at a short briefing on our proposals, or read a more detailed policy paper. For more information contact Marcus Gilleard, Senior Policy Programmes Manager at the National Trust.

You can find out more about the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition on the website – https://www.wcl.org.uk/

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