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At a time when urgent action is needed to reverse the declines in our natural environment, voluntary organisations have come together to produce an ambitious yet wholly achievable vision for farming in England.

As well as providing us with food, fuel and fibre, pollinating our crops, purifying our water and giving us green spaces for recreation, nature enriches our lives with its beauty and diversity. Farming shapes our countryside and everything that lives in it. We believe in a food and farming system that encourages nature and landscapes to thrive, supports livelihoods and local communities, and has public health and wellbeing and animal welfare at its heart.

Now is a pivotal point in the history of food, farming and our natural environment. The Government has ambitious plans for farming to deliver increased food production, investment and jobs. At the same time, many of our current approaches to food and farming are environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable. Our natural capital is being eroded at an alarming rate. A healthy natural environment will be key to delivering the Government’s ambitions and to supporting farmers, their families and rural communities in the future.

Our vision for farming

The Government is developing both a long-term plan for nature’s recovery and a long-term plan for food and farming. If the Government is to deliver its commitments on food, farming and the natural environment, these plans must be joined up and united around an ambition to protect and enhance the ecosystems that underpin sustainable farming - our soils, freshwater and natural habitats. Good environmental management of the farmed landscape is the only economically sustainable way forward for farming; it is critical to the health of the country’s natural environment and to the health and wellbeing of its people. Here we set out a vision for farming that will deliver multiple benefits for farming communities and businesses, for nature and for the nation; in the immediate term and into the future. We look forward to discussing our ideas further with the Government, the farming community and other stakeholders, and working with them to help achieve and support farming that is truly fit for the future.

Our vision is for farming that is:

Better for nature – A farmed landscape that is rich in wildlife, with healthy functioning and resilient ecosystems
Better for people – Approaches to food and farming that are fair to farmers and wider society, and which promote health and wellbeing for all
Better for our land and our livestock – Farms that look after and respect the land, and the farm animals on which we depend
Ready for the future – Farming and food production that can cope with the changes and challenges that lie ahead, as well as being able to capitalise on future opportunities

Parliamentary Launch

Link launched its integrated visions for farming and water in Parliament on 15 September 2015 at which the Secretary of State gave the keynote speech. Link Director Dr Elaine King introduced Link's ambition for farming and water. The parliamentary briefing can be found here.

Press Release

Putting nature at the heart of plans for farming and for water

Environment sector sets out visions for farming and for water in two influential publications

Voluntary organisations have come together to produce ambitious visions for England’s farmland and the country’s water. Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) - a coalition of 46 voluntary organisations – has produced two significant publications.

Farming fit for the Future and Water Matters put restoration of the natural environment at the heart of plans for the future management of farmland, rivers, lakes and wetlands in England.

Link’s Director, Dr Elaine King, said: “Farming and water are so closely linked. We therefore want the Government to take an integrated approach to ensuring that our land and water can provide us with life’s essentials: healthy food, clean drinking water, protection from flooding, secure livelihoods and access to beautiful green and blue spaces with thriving nature.

“Specialists on water and agriculture, from across Link’s member organisations, have contributed their expertise to simultaneously create powerful visions for farming and our water, at a time when action needs to be taken to reverse the decline in our natural environment.”

The overarching themes addressed in Water Matters and Farming fit for the Future include pollution, climate change, long-term planning, and restoring wildlife and the countryside. Together the publications call for:

  • Long-term planning for the natural environment to be embedded within farming and water policies and practice
  • The true value of the natural environment to be recognised so that resources such as water and soils are used wisely
  • A clear focus on public money – for example as distributed by the Common Agricultural Policy - being invested in ways that deliver public benefit - such as healthy soils, biodiversity, clean water, flood storage and thriving landscapes
  • Land and water to be protected from pollution through better enforcement of penalties, along with fair and effective regulation, so that businesses and the natural environment can thrive
  • Farmers, the water industry, the environment sector, and Government to respond appropriately to climate change, for example by increasing public awareness of the value of water and actively supporting farmers to significantly reduce total greenhouse gas emissions
  • Measures to maintain and rebuild water and farmland nature habitats so that they, and the wildlife that depend on them, are restored to full health

Acting Chair of Link’s Agriculture Working Group, Helen Perkins, said: “These are challenging times for farmers and for nature. Farming fit for the Future sets out a vision that can deliver multiple benefits for farming communities and businesses, for our land and livestock, for nature and for the nation; in the immediate term and into the future. We are issuing the vision as a starting point for discussion and look forward to increased dialogue with the Government and the farming industry and community over the coming year.”

Acting Chair of Link’s Blueprint for Water Group, Hannah Freeman, said: “Over the last 30 years our freshwater species have declined by 76%. Despite such losses less than one per cent of the UK’s entire river length and only a small proportion of wetlands are formally protected. Water Matters advocates us all working together to manage our water more sensitively, bringing sustainable benefits to the economy and a future full of wildlife rich places that everyone can explore and enjoy.”

Notes to editors:

1. Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) brings together 46 voluntary organisations concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife and the countryside. Our members practise and advocate environmentally sensitive land management, and encourage respect for and enjoyment of natural landscapes and features, the historic and marine environment and biodiversity. Taken together our members have the support of over eight million people in the UK and manage over 750,000 hectares of land.

2. Water Matters is produced by Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Blueprint for Water, a coalition of 16 leading environmental and fishery organisations. Blueprint seeks to restore the ecology of rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands by seeking improvements to water policy and is campaigning for the Government and its agencies to deliver the steps necessary to achieve ‘sustainable water’. The coalition first came together in 2006 to urge the Government to meet the 2015 Water Framework Directive deadline. The Group is currently chaired by Hannah Freeman from Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

Farming Fit for the Future is produced by Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Agriculture Working Group. The group works to support and deliver a sustainable, high quality, multi-functional rural environment through influencing and monitoring policy on rural development, agri-environment, bioenergy, and animal welfare standards. The Group is currently chaired by Helen Perkins from The Wildlife Trusts.

Become a WCL member

Membership of Wildlife and Countryside Link is open to national and international voluntary or other non-profit organisations based in England. Member organisations must be able to demonstrate an interest in furthering the work of Link, and their aims must include the protection of wildlife, landscape and the quiet enjoyment and appreciation of the countryside. Individual members of the public are not eligible to join Link, but may be interested in joining one of Link's member organisations.