Farming News - Farming’s crucial environmental role showcased at landmark conference

Farming’s crucial environmental role showcased at landmark conference

12 Dec 2018
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

The vital role farming plays in protecting and enhancing the environment was underlined at a landmark conference hosted by the NFU yesterday.

United by our environment, food, future Farmed Environment Conference December 2018_58943

Farmers from across the country joined politicians, civil servants, campaigners and industry representatives at the event which aims to highlight the importance of a farmed environment working in harmony with productive food and farming businesses. 

A new report was published at the conference which detailed the role farming has played through the generations in shaping Britain’s iconic countryside. It also highlighted  the need for a better data-based approach to underpin effective future agricultural and environmental policy-making and ensure that environmental successes can be recognised, as well as understand where more work is needed and the NFU’s key policy asks of government.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “Farmers want to play our part in rising to the government’s wider challenge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it.

“In order to do that, we need a balanced and honest appraisal of the current state of the farmed environment. Farmers take their environmental responsibilities very seriously and are passionate about the countryside – without it they would not have businesses.

"Our report highlights the need for better data to benchmark environmental performance in a meaningful way. Without accurate or comprehensive data we will be permanently reliant on anecdotal or cherry-picked evidence which does not show the full picture.  

"For example, during last year’s Big Farmland Bird Count, 121 different species of birds were recorded on farm – far more than are found on the Government’s official farmland bird index. And there was another success story with barn owls, which have increased by 17% above the average of the previous four years.

“In order to keep delivering for the environment, a future land management scheme should be voluntary, open to all farmers, simple to apply for and administer, and offer a fair reward. Immediately, current schemes must be more workable and attractive. 

“The NFU and farmers across the country, are also asking the government to rise to our challenge to make sure that a future agriculture policy enhances farmers’ ability to produce food for the nation. It is crucial that it gives us greater security in the supply of safe, traceable and affordable British food that the public trusts.

"The bottom line is that farm businesses need to be productive and profitable to be able to continue to deliver the environmental benefits we all want to see."

In the report, the NFU’s key asks of Government are:

    • We need better data on wider biodiversity delivery, like insects, and more data about the quality of our soils and emissions to air such as ammonia. Access to good data is a recurring theme throughout our report
    • Food producers must be at the heart of future environmental policies because farmers are in the best position to manage land for future environmental benefit
    • A future environmental land management scheme needs to be voluntary, open to all farmers, simple to apply for and administer, and offer a fair reward
    • In the short-medium term we also need to see much needed improvements to the delivery of current agri-environment schemes to make these workable and attractive
    • Support for farm infrastructure projects, new technologies, and innovative tools are needed to help improve productivity while reducing our environmental footprint
    • Science, research and innovation are needed to help increase our resource efficiency and further reduce our environmental impact

As well as their environmental responsibilities, farmers are the foundation of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector food and drink. They produce the raw ingredients for a sector that is worth over £110 billion to the economy and provides 3.8 million jobs, all while producing safe, traceable and sustainable food for the nation.