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New report shows future farming needs the environment after Brexit

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. This is according to a group of more than twenty farming, environment and animal welfare organisations.

29 September 2017

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RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPCA, argue that the current rules, known as Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), are outdated and over-complicated.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”, said Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust. “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.”

Jenna Hegarty, Head of Land Use Policy at the RSPB said, “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.”

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”, said Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link. “It also offers the long-term certainty and clarity that farming needs.”

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.

Jenna Hegarty added, “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.”

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.

Ends

Notes for editors:
  1. Wildlife and Countryside Link brings together 46 environment and animal protection organisations to advocate for the conservation and protection of wildlife, countryside and the marine environment. Our members practice 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 we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and manage over 750,000 hectares of land.
  2. Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Agriculture Working Group works to conserve the natural and historic environment and improve animal welfare by seeking improvements to agriculture and land management policy.
  3. Today, the Agriculture Working Group have published their proposals for a Sustainable Farming and Land Management policy, including a summary briefing, and detailed discussion paper. These proposals set out a vision for a policy to replace the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
  4. The Country Land Business Association recently published proposals for a Land Management Contract aimed at securing a range of public goods, not otherwise provided by the market.
  5. Sustain launched ‘Beyond 2020 – New farm policy’ in June 2017, presenting principles and policies to deliver better food and farming when we leave the European Union.
  6. On 28th September 2017, the Natural Capital Committee published their advice to Government on the 25 year Environment Plan. This recommended that agricultural subsidies be moved toward the provision of public benefits to help deliver the aims of the Environment Plan.
  7. For more information, contact Zoe Davies, Information and Policy Coordinator, Wildlife and Countryside Link, 0207 820 8600 or Martin Fowlie, Senior Media Officer, RSPB, 01767 693257.