'NATURE FRIENDLY' Scottish farmers descended on Westminster this week to demand that the government prioritises wildlife conservation in its forthcoming Agriculture Bill.

That Bill, which lays out how Britain’s rural economy will be supported post-Brexit, is currently at Committee Stage and under debate in Westminster, during which time MPs can put forward amendments to Environment Secretary Michael Gove's core proposal to replace CAP payments with subsidies that reward farmers for delivering public goods.

The Nature Friendly Farming Network has five key policy asks it wants MPs to support:

  • All UK government departments should lead by example, supporting high quality, sustainable and nature friendly British food production;
  • Productivity must be underpinned by sustainability to ensure long-term food security;
  • Rewards farmers financially for delivering environmental benefits;
  • Future trade deals must not undercut the high agricultural and environmental standards delivered by UK farmers;
  • The Bill must set basic standards for sustainable land management.

NFFN chair Martin Lines said: “At this stage of the debate, the Agriculture Bill can still be amended, which means the fight for nature and sustainable farming is not over yet. Mr Gove may have promised to use public money to reward farmers for delivering public goods, but the devil is in the detail. Certainty is key here and MPs have a chance to create a policy that works for farmers and nature.”

NFFN members aim to produce sustainable food for the country whilst also providing benefits to the environment and society, such as healthy soils, clean air and habitat restoration. The farmers travelling to Westminster were wearing specially designed wellies that feature the species or ecology that each farmer protects on their land. A pair of these wildlife wellies was to be presented to Mr Gove.

Mr Lines continued: “Wildlife declines, soil degradation and climate change threaten our landscape’s productivity and farmer livelihoods. Many farmers are working to reverse this trend, but Government must embed nature friendly farming in policy. We need a long-term, sustainable management framework to deliver real food security.”

The Public Bill Committee will report on the final Agriculture Bill by Tuesday November 20 2018.