The need for change
Brexit now offers the opportunity to create a fundamentally different model to drive a different strategy for land; one that addresses imbalance and achieves a thriving, healthy countryside delivering multiple benefits for society. We need the countryside to also provide services like clean water and healthy soils, and the benefits to our well-being that contact with nature brings. In turn, these services can play a key role in securing a prosperous rural economy, ensuring the future viability of farming, and the sustainability of food production.
Currently under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), some £600 million a year gets spent on ‘Pillar 2’ rural development schemes in the UK, delivering public benefits like wildlife and heritage. In contrast, some £2.5 billion goes on ‘Pillar 1’ subsidies, which is based on how much land you happen to have. The large disparity in support between the two approaches continues despite growing evidence of environmental degradation resulting from decades of intensive farming and climate change effects.
But to change how decisions are made on the ground, we need to take a broader view of what land is for and what we fund to achieve it.
Where do we go from here?
We believe farming and land management can become more sustainable and remain productive whilst restoring nature and providing wider public benefits. Putting public benefits and environmental delivery at the heart of a replacement for the CAP will help shape effective and efficient policy design, whilst helping to secure a strong, healthy and viable agricultural sector.
A system will be needed that optimises the use of public money in delivering public benefits, aligning the needs of farmers and need for food security with good social and environmental outcomes: the more a farmer delivers for society, the more support they get.
But future investment in green infrastructure and wildlife-friendly farming will need to be supported by a combination of public subsidy and private capital, making it profitable and rewarding to manage land sustainably for both private and public benefit. A new policy framework should therefore also encourage new ‘natural markets’ and incentivise private sector investment in environmental restoration to complement and enhance the impact of public funding.
In summary, our recommendations for government are:
We believe that farmers will continue to have a critical role producing safe and sustainable supplies of food, but they will also have a crucial part to play in improving biodiversity, protecting vulnerable natural resources upon which our economy depends, caring for our landscape and heritage, looking after the welfare of livestock, and helping address new and growing challenges like climate change and flooding. Farmers should be rewarded for this role and we believe this justifies continued public funding.
Read the National Trust's full paper here.
Senior External Affairs Adviser, National Trust
Find the National Trust External Affairs Team on Twitter @NTExtAffairs
Aspects of this blog appeared on the National Trust website. The opinions expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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