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Link’s Agriculture Working Group seeks to conserve the natural and historic environment and improve animal welfare by seeking improvements to agriculture and land management policy.

Chair: Helen Chesshire, Woodland Trust
Vice Chair: Tom Lancaster, RSPB
Policy and Campaigns Manager: Zoe Davies, Link

Update from the group:

Link’s Agriculture Group continues to focus on the impacts of Brexit on farming and land management - specifically the replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy after the UK leaves the EU. The Group continues to work in partnership with Greener UK, Sustain, and with our colleagues in the devolved countries through Environment Links UK, to ensure we advocate effectively for the best possible outcomes for post-Brexit agriculture policy across the UK.

In January, Link welcomed commitments in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy to reduce the devastating impact of ammonia on our native wildlife by cutting emissions from farming. Under the new measures, farmers will have to use low-emissions technology and facilities to collect, store and spread animal wastes and fertilisers on their fields.

Many dairy and intensive beef farms will have to apply for an environmental permit, as is already the case for the largest poultry and pig farms. However, Link warned that the devil will be in the detail, urging Government to bring forward detailed proposals in the coming months and set earlier deadlines for reducing ammonia emissions from the most polluting sources. The story was covered by the BBC, Ecologist, Air Quality News, Environment Journal, PFM and Technology Networks. Link member Jenny Hawley, at Link member Plantlife, appeared on Channel 4 news, and a letter from Link’s Director, Elaine King, was published in The Times.

Members of the Group worked closely with colleagues at Greener UK to influence the Agriculture Bill during its passage through the Commons. Our briefing for Second Reading recognised the positive aspects of the Bill – namely that it does allow for payment of public money for delivery of public goods – and set out our priorities for amendments. These include: enshrining duties in the Bill, not just powers; the need for a long-term funding settlement to give farmers confidence in the new scheme; the establishment of a regulatory baseline and binding objectives; and ensuring that payments to increase productivity do not undermine the delivery of public goods. We have also been preparing for the Bill to return to the Commons for Report Stage, and subsequently to enter the Lords, in the New Year. Follow the progress of the Agriculture Bill and amendments as they are tabled here.

Alongside its work on the Agriculture Bill, the Group is developing its thinking on the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) – the key policy that will flow from the Bill. It is essential, for farmers, wildlife and future generations, that Government gets this critical new policy right, so in the coming months Link will be advocating its position to Defra on complex aspects of ELMS such as governance, monitoring and evaluation, regulation and enforcement. On the latter, Link will also engage actively with the forthcoming regulation and enforcement consultation, which will follow up on the recommendations in Dame Glenys Stacey’s review of farm inspection and regulation.

With Environment Links UK colleagues, Link is also seeking to influence the review of fair allocation of funding for domestic farm support across the UK. The review is limited to allocation of a small pot of ‘convergence funding’ from 2020 up to the end of this parliament, but it will have significant implications for funding allocations in the long-term.

For further information, contact Zoe Davies, Link’s Policy and Campaigns Manager.

Last updated: 1 February 2019