Trust respond to Agricultural Command Paper

Our wildlife is in crisis with only a tiny proportion of our previous abundance of wildflowers, birds and sea-life now remaining. We can turn this around and lead the world in nature’s recovery but only with true government leadership.

Yesterday, the Government launched a 10-week consultation on the vision for agriculture and land management in England called Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit. This consultation – or Command Paper – will inform the Government’s forthcoming Agriculture Bill. What follows is an initial response from The Wildlife Trusts:

The Wildlife Trusts’ CEO Stephanie Hilborne says:

“This Agriculture Command Paper must be the first step towards a new era in which we restore our environment for the benefit of future generations through a Nature Recovery Network. We therefore welcome the clear vision for the future of farming in the UK and the proposals to pay farmers and land managers for managing their land in a way that is of value to the public, not least by providing space for wildlife. However, this is not a done deal. It is vital that people who care about wildlife respond to this consultation in the next 10 weeks if we are to secure this step forward for wildlife. It may seem a strange thing to do in an evening – to find a government website and respond to a consultation on farming – but the stakes for wildlife have never been higher. And a healthy, wildlife-rich natural world is not only valuable in its own right, it is also at the core of our wellbeing and prosperity.”

Senior Policy Officer at The Wildlife Trusts, Ellie Brodie says:

“Farmers can sell the food they grow through the market. However, they can’t sell a whole range of services that society needs them to provide, whether it’s reducing the risk of floods downstream, creating habitat for bees or improving the health of our soils. The Wildlife Trusts believe that this is the most important thing that farmers should be paid for. We need to make sure that the right amount of money is invested by the Government in our farmed environment. We would need to spend £2.3bn just to meet existing government commitments for the environment. Even more will be needed to meet the more ambitious goals we hope the government will commit to as part of an Environment Act in 2019.”

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The Wildlife Trusts’ CEO Stephanie Hilborne also highlighted one key risk:

“The Government must also be very careful about the side-effects of the planned sweeping changes to the system. Whilst it is entirely logical to remove direct payments to landowners, these currently depend upon the landowner managing field boundaries and hedges positively for the environment. If the payments go overnight, so will this ‘cross-compliance.’ A new and better mechanism needs to be in place before these payments are pulled.”

Cornwall is 80% farmland, so this must be managed in a way which provides shelter, food and nesting sites for wildlife. Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with several hundred farmers across seven project areas, to support business decisions which boost food production as well as protecting wildlife.

Farming practices can however, help protect species and habitats and this is where Cornwall Wildlife Trust works with farmers to offer advice and funding. For example, a farmer near Helston has boosted wildlife in his silage fields by sowing thirteen different species of grasses, wildflowers and herbs. The flowering plants attract pollinators like hoverflies, which in turn support farmland birds and bats. This change also benefits the farm as the new species have deeper roots, which anchor the soil in place and stop it from washing into the stream. Additionally, some of the plants have medicinal properties for livestock, like birds-foot-trefoil which helps fight parasites.

Pete Warman, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Project Manager for Upstream Thinking said “In our experience, farmers understand the need to manage the land sustainably to protect natural resources for future generations. Our support is well received because we focus on solutions which protect the environment and make good business sense for farms.”

 

Tagged with: Living Landscapes