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Welcome return of the Agriculture Bill keeping the course for nature’s recovery

The return of the Agriculture Bill, is hugely welcome. We now need long-term funding plans, high standards in trade deals, & strong enforcement to support this much-needed legislation.

Wildlife and Countryside Link welcomes the return of the Agriculture Bill to parliament today (Thurs 16 Jan). Particularly welcome is the reconfirmed emphasis that public money spent on farming should deliver public goods – including improving our air, water, soils and wildlife, and ensuring sustainable, humane food production, and public access to nature.

This move will be welcomed by farmers, environmentalists and the public alike, with 92% of the public wanting farming to focus on tackling the climate and nature crises[1] and the majority of farmers backing a public goods approach[2]. It is vital that the strong environmental credentials within the Bill are not diluted as it progresses.

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: ‘The Government is leading the way in its commitment to public money for public goods. It is excellent to see the return of the Agriculture Bill, with payments for environment, public access and animal welfare at its core. With the UK one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, it is welcome news that one of the Government’s first pieces of legislation has a strong focus on nature recovery.’

‘This Bill has the potential to put farming and nature on a path to survive and thrive together. But to succeed, the law must be accompanied by firm funding plans beyond this Parliament, regulation to ensure that imports meet high environmental and welfare standards, and simple but strong enforcement requirements for farming rules.’

Environmental and farming experts are making three key asks of the Government on farming policy this year, to:
  • Progress the Agriculture Bill swiftly through Parliament, with public goods, such as the environment, animal welfare and public access, remaining its central focus, and start the transition to this new system in 2021
  • Guarantee funding of at least £3bn p.a. for 10 years for public goods-based land management, giving farmers and land managers certainty to invest in improving nature, animal welfare, public access and tackling climate change. Future funding decisions should be based on an assessment of need to meet objectives for nature and other public goods
  • Ensure that future trade deals and legislation maintain or improve environmental and animal welfare requirements

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. An online omnibus poll with 2140 UK adults was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Wildlife and Countryside Link between 18-19 December 2019. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)

2. Half (50%) of the 500 farmers surveyed agreed with the principle of ‘public money for public goods’ (one third were neutral, and one in five disagreed with the principle) and – as 8 out of 10 farmers believe the health of the natural environment is important or very important for their farm business. Please see our press release, research report and dataset for more detail and further findings from the research published in June 2019.