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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what's happened in January. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Jodie Le Marquand. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

The return of the Bills

Agriculture Bill

After a year’s hiatus, we welcomed the Agriculture Bill back to Parliament in January. We were pleased to see that the Bill retained its central tenet of ‘public money for public goods’. Even better, it now contains safeguards to monitor whether that public money is actually delivering what it should in terms of environmental, animal welfare and farm productivity enhancements.

Our priorities to improve the Bill as it goes through Parliament, set out in our 2nd Reading briefing, are to secure a framework for long-term budget-setting and legal commitments to maintaining standards in trade deals and a more effective regulatory approach to underpin future farming schemes.

Environment Bill

The Environment Bill has returned with few changes.

There is a clause, which would oblige the Government to make a statement that protection will not be weakened when introducing new primary legislation on the environment. This is accompanied by an obligation to report on developments in international environmental protection legislation.

There is also a new requirement associated with Local Nature Recovery Strategies, obliging the Secretary of State to inform appropriate authorities of opportunities for environmental enhancement.

The Government have also promised to exercise a power to ban or restrict the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries.

The Fisheries Bill

The Fisheries bill has been amended to include a new by-catch obligation in the Fisheries Policy Statement.

Unfortunately, the obligation to follow the Statement is still qualified by loopholes in the Clause 6 duty for the Secretary of State to adhere to the policy statement. This has been slightly amended, so that the statement can be discounted if there is a change in “relevant circumstances” (rather than in any relevant circumstances).

There is also a new definition of relevant circumstances, which is broadly written to include a variety of social and economic considerations that could undermine sustainable fishing limits.

Oxford Real Farming Conference

This year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference was, as always, a hotbed of innovation and enthusiasm for a more sustainable farming future. Alongside the Nature-Friendly Farming Network, we hosted a panel of experts who interrogated the practicalities of net zero farming, with inspiring contributions from Caroline Lucas MP and Professor Tim Benton of Chatham House among others. We also released polling figures that show that 90% of the public believe farmers have a responsibility to tackle the climate and nature crisis. We followed that with a networking session for farmers to share their own experiences and insights into what it means to run a carbon and nature-friendly farming business. Join NFFN to hear more about the outcomes of that session.

On day two, we teamed up with Sustain to host a session with Defra’s Director General of Future Farming, David Kennedy, which gave attendees the rare opportunity to put their questions over future Environmental Land Management Schemes directly to decision-makers.

January blogs and publication

We start the year with a focus on farming; from the Oxford conferences to the return of the Agriculture Bill. Our very own Policy and Campaigns Manager, Zoe Davies, wrote a blog on the promises we need from government on the future of farming and Tom Lancaster, RSPB, analyses the significant changes made to the Bill as it returns to Parliament after a year’s hiatus.

This month, Link published the following blogs, press releases and publications:
Commitments we need to hear at the Oxford farming conferences
Our farming future is key to balancing our carbon budget
Food choice and change
Agriculture Bill 2020: Do good things come to those who wait?
A thriving countryside for all: getting policies right
Government urged to make tackling climate and nature crises a top farming resolution
Welcome return of the Agriculture Bill keeping the course for nature’s recovery
Environment Bill a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help nature
Joint letter to PM on agriculture trading standards
Greener UK and Link agriculture Bill 2020 2nd reading briefing

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