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Positive steps forward, but detail needed as future of farming remains foggy

29 November 2020

Responding to the government’s sustainable farming roadmap published today, Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“The sustainable farming incentive, local nature recovery and landscape recovery components could stack up to be a really effective boost for environmental recovery, so we welcome Defra’s decisions today. With the right ambition in the next stages of development, Defra’s farming programme could transform the future of farming and be a cornerstone of nature’s recovery.

"Of course, their effectiveness will depend on a clearer direction of travel for farmers and other land managers and a firm foundation of regulation, where Defra’s plans still remain murky.

“We urge Defra to publish more detail on higher environmental standards expected during and after the transition period as soon as possible, so that farmers can plan for the future.

“To contribute to nature’s recovery, it’s vital that the Government sets a clear trajectory toward higher regulatory standards that every farmer will be expected to meet without subsidy, and how they will be fairly but firmly enforced. This should go hand in hand with plans to pay really well for farmers who go further and deliver extra enhancements for wildlife, habitats and public access to nature.

“Combined with uncertainty for farmers over exports, tariffs and standards in trade deals post-Brexit, there’s a foggy future for farming ahead. This uncertainty could mean some farmers turn away from greener options or give up on existing environmental choices, but as this week’s farmland bird index showed once again, there’s no time to lose in investing in a greener farming future. Government should give clarity where it can, and clearly show the path ahead toward a higher standards future for farming.”


Notes to editors:

  • Please see Wildlife and Countryside Link’s briefing on Key Principles for Sustainable Future Farming and Land Management
  • The new Farmland Bird Index, published 26 November, showed a 57% decline between 1970 and 2018 and a 5% decline between 2013 and 2018. In 2019 the UK farmland bird index was 45% of its 1970 value.

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