Call for Government to support nature friendly farming policies post-Brexit

Press release
Farming for nature at Hill Top Farm, Yorkshire
Published : 05 Jan 2018

A group of more than 100 farmers with a new vision for the future of British agriculture is launching the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) on Friday 5 January 2018, at the Real Farming Conference in Oxford.

The independent organisation is calling on the UK and devolved governments to create a post-Brexit framework that will help farmers restore British wildlife, reverse declines in soil quality and help manage the impacts of climate change, at the same time as growing affordable, healthy food.

Leaving the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) necessitates a new approach to British farming policy. The NFFN believes the UK should use this opportunity to help farmers across the UK transition towards a nature friendly future. 

Thousands of British farmers already use nature friendly farming practices, but NFFN says that the scale of the decline in wildlife and soil quality and the challenges presented by climate change mean that this work needs to be scaled up rapidly with strong policy support.

The NFFN aims to provide a political voice for the thousands of farmers who are committed to managing their land for wildlife and public service, as well as growing and providing food.

Post-Brexit, agricultural policies need to help all British farmers to produce high quality food at the same time as helping our soil, landscapes and wildlife recover and flourish. Among other things this means that farming payments need to be continued and redirected towards mainstreaming nature friendly farming across the UK. The NFFN wants this not just because the farmers care about nature – but because they firmly believe that a more nature friendly approach will be key to the long-term survival and success of British farming.

The Nature Friendly Farming Network believes that post-Brexit agriculture policy should:

  1. Help all British farmers to produce safe, healthy food at the same time as helping our soil, landscapes, rivers and wildlife to recover and flourish.
  2. Maintain and redirect farming payments towards mainstreaming nature friendly farming across the UK.
  3. Recognise that the shift towards a more nature friendly approach is not just good for wildlife but is key to the long-term survival and success of British farming, delivering broader benefits to the public [flood protection, water and air quality, and access to thriving natural landscapes].

The chair of NFFN, Martin Lines, who runs an arable family farm in Cambridgeshire, says: "Brexit presents a once in a generation opportunity to create a new farming policy that will help farms evolve and thrive, at the same time as restoring and protecting our natural heritage. We can use this opportunity to create a long-term, stable policy framework that will drive a mainstream shift towards a sustainable, productive, nature-friendly future for British farming as well as protecting the landscape across the UK."

Britain needs to change its approach to agriculture. Existing farm practices often rely on the heavy use of chemical pesticides and herbicides which have a profound impact on biodiversity and public health. Industrialised farming is responsible for 2.9 million tonnes of topsoil lost each year in the UK alone. Farm birds, a key indicator of the health of wildlife, have declined by 54% since 1970. Over the last 50 years, there has been a marked decline in over 600 farmland species across the UK.

Over 70% of the land in the UK is farmland. The NFFN aims to unite farmers who are passionate about wildlife and sustainable farming and who want to deliver rapid progress towards a future in which wildlife on farmland recovers and thrives. More than 4,000 farmers across the UK are already committed to nature friendly farming with encouraging results for biodiversity, soil health, water quality, air quality and species that were formerly on the brink of extinction.

The Network is welcomed by a range of environmental and conservation charities including Soil Association, National Trust, Woodland Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife and Plantlife.

Rob Macklin, Head of Farming at the National Trust, says: "Many of the things we need from the countryside – wildlife, healthy soils, clean water, flood protection and carbon storage are ‘public goods’ that fall outside conventional markets.  

Post-Brexit, we need a policy and subsidy framework that rewards farmers to conserve natural resources alongside production. We want Government to offer farmers a joined-up package of support to benefit nature-friendly farming across the UK. We recognise that the most powerful way to make this case is for farmers themselves to champion these ideas. This is exactly what the Nature Friendly Farming Network will be aiming to achieve."

Marian Spain, CEO of Plantlife, added: "All too often, farmers and conservationists are pitched against each other, apparently irreconcilable adversaries. This 'farming versus environment' narrative is holding wildlife-friendly back at a critical moment. It overlooks the vast swathes of common ground between farmers and nature conservationists. It excludes those many farmers who are wildflower lovers and countryside stewards as well as food producers and business owners. As post-Brexit agricultural policy develops, we have the chance of a lifetime to reclaim the common ground – with a shared language and shared expertise. Through ever closer co-operation, we can deliver a bright future for farming that is truly sustainable - environmentally, economically and socially."

NFFN will launch a policy ask to recognise that agriculture across the UK needs to be profitable and sustainable, and that farmers should receive adequate payments for undertaking environmental and nature friendly activities. The farmers behind the network are committed to securing farming policies that support wildlife, sustainable agriculture and fairness for farmers across the UK.

Six-point Framework for Sustainable Farming

The Nature Friendly Farming Network has focused on six key areas where sustainable farming adds value, asking for recognition and support from UK and devolved governments post-Brexit:

1. Growing healthy nutritious food.
2. Addressing degradation and improving the quality of soil.
3. Helping wildlife to recover and thrive.
4. Reducing greenhouse gases and managing impacts of climate change, such as flooding.
5. Keeping our seas and rivers clean and reducing water born pollution.
6. Being custodians of the British landscape and enabling the public to enjoy and benefit from our natural heritage.

Farmers can join the NFFN by visiting www.nffn.org.uk, to read the high level policy ask click here.

For more information contact press.office@nationaltrust.org.uk