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Our views on land and farming

Sheep grazing on the estate at Brockhampton, Herefordshire
Sheep grazing on the estate at Brockhampton, Herefordshire | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

We were formed to look after places of historic interest and natural beauty for the benefit of everyone. That includes nearly 260,000 hectares of land we are proud to care for across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our ambitions for the land in our care

Today, we’re facing new challenges. Climate change and the loss of nature represent the biggest risks to the planet and to our quality of life.

We’re already feeling the effects of a changing climate, and we need to adapt our land and the ways we manage it to be resilient to hotter temperatures and extreme weather. The UK's wildlife is also in danger. According to the report State of Nature 2023, the abundance of species studied in the UK has declined by 19 per cent on average since records began in 1970. It also found that nearly 16 per cent of species in Britain are under threat of extinction.

How we plan to play our part:

  • We’ll create or restore 25,000 hectares of priority wildlife habitats by 2025, to reverse the decline in wildlife on the land in our care.
  • We'll ensure at least 50 per cent of farmland in our care is nature-friendly by 2025, with protected habitats for plants and animals including hedgerows, field margins, ponds and woodland.
  • We’ll reduce our emissions from land and create healthy habitats that support nature and capture carbon, including establishing 20 million trees, to support our plan to become carbon net zero by 2030.

We can’t achieve these goals alone, and we’re committed to working with others across our land to make change happen. This includes working with neighbours and partners to restore nature faster across larger scales; exploring new relationships with governments to develop the right policies and find new financial models; helping to grow skills and creating opportunities for new farming entrants; and collaborating with research organisations.

Tenant farmers, graziers and common rights holders farming National Trust land have a vital role to play. We’re working with them to deliver nature renewal alongside wider benefits such as enhanced access for visitors, flood protection, and care for historic features, as well as the production of good, sustainable food.

As we work together to create a thriving countryside, we’re continuing to learn from farmers who are already making nature and climate-friendly choices and we’re sharing that knowledge to help others learn too.

Two Belted Galloway cattle, which are black with a white central band, grazing in winter at Denbies Hillside, Surrey, on a high plateau, with views of misty hills in the background
Belted Galloway cattle grazing in winter at Denbies Hillside, Surrey | © National Trust Images/Juliet D'Costa

The need for support

Farmers need to be rewarded properly for the action they take to support nature and capture carbon.

We believe that UK Governments need to direct significantly more money towards ensuring its nature and climate goals are met, and to help farming become environmentally sustainable, resilient and successful.

We’ve teamed up with farming and nature groups to support a farming consensus on how food, farming and nature can go hand-in-hand. This consensus highlights how crucial it is for investment to meet the environmental and societal challenges we're facing.

Governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can help by ensuring that new agri-environment schemes are adequately resourced and well designed. These schemes need to incentivise ambitious actions and offer a full and fair reward in return for farmers and land managers playing their part in nature’s recovery and delivering other public goods.

Adopting nature-friendly, low-carbon farming can also contribute to profitable business. Research shows that some farms can become more profitable by finding the right balance of inputs such as fertiliser, feed and labour, and outputs such as improved soil quality, nature and food.

The farming community faces significant challenges – responding to huge inflationary challenges, changing consumer choices and public needs, and adjusting to the new intentions for agriculture and the environment from UK governments.

We’ll continue to work with policymakers and governments, other charities, and with the farming community to learn and support each other and make sure farmers have the tools and support they need to deliver transformational change for nature and the climate, as well as produce fantastic food that people can afford to eat. The choice isn't nature or food, we need both.

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