Greatest opportunity in a generation for our countryside to thrive

Pentire Farm
Published : 02 Aug 2017 Last update : 03 Aug 2017

Our countryside has its greatest opportunity in a generation to thrive if the Government delivers on its promises to reward nature-friendly farming, says Helen Ghosh.

However, farmers could face a decade of damaging uncertainty if the Government waits until Brexit to act, Helen Ghosh will tell an audience today at BBC Countryfile Live: 'We are within touching distance of a vision for the future of farming that sees thriving businesses successfully meeting the needs of the nation into the 21st century and beyond.'

Waiting to formally leave the EU will be too late, she warns, as it could take up to 10 years from today for new support packages to be in place.

'The longer we wait, the more we risk losing all the gains we have made over the last decade,' Helen will say.

The director-general, who last year called on ministers to seize the opportunity posed by Brexit, said farmers can feel optimistic about their prospects again if Government promises become policy before the UK parts company with Brussels.

Current uncertainty

We believe that affordable, high-quality food and wildlife-friendly methods can be secured if the Government:

  • Maintains the £3billion-a-year support package for the industry, with clear incentives for nature-friendly farming.
  • Ensures £800 million of defunct pillar one greening subsidies are redirected in 2019 into more effective incentive systems rewarding farmers for working in unison with the natural environment.
  • Clearly guarantee and reassure farmers that food standards and environmental protections will be maintained or strengthened.

Helen will warn that current uncertainty is prompting some farmers to revert to intensive methods for short-term profits, damaging long-term agriculture and dwindling wildlife.

'We have already seen examples of short-term decision-making, where farmers – in response to uncertainty about the future and income – have ploughed up  pasture which was created with support from EU environmental money. It's very understandable, but heart-breaking.' She will conclude that the “clock is ticking” for the Government to provide clarity before the EU cash-flow ends.

Building a bright post-Brexit future for farming

The National Trust have been working in close partnership with farmers to build a bright post-Brexit future in which farming can thrive, nature can be revived, and cultural heritage is protected in some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes.

In January, Helen said, 'The Government’s Agriculture Bill and 25 year plan will give the UK a much-needed debate for what the nation wants from farming and the countryside in the 21st century.

This includes the vital question of our role as a food producer, and can create much-needed certainty for farmers,' she added.

The National Trust will also be discussing and working with devolved administrations in securing a farming settlement post-Brexit that delivers nature-friendly, sustainable farming.