Just as we depend on the UK’s farmland for much of the food we eat every day, so does lots of our wildlife. But over the decades our farming policies have had an unintended effect, dramatically reducing other countryside qualities that we need and value: like wildlife, landscape character, and water, air and soil quality.
People’s Trust for Endangered Species campaigned and consulted with Defra, Wildlife and Countryside Link, and other charities and NGOs, to help shape a new piece of legislation that truly puts nature and the environment at the front of the UK’s post-Brexit farming and agricultural future.
The rural economy is funded to the tune of around £3 billion per year, currently via EU funding from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). After Brexit, the Government will need a new mechanism to enable financial aid to reach farmers and land managers.
Although the bill omits some elements that we had hoped to see, the focus on Public Goods is a major step in the right direction – it is a resolute shift away from the CAP’s long-maligned blunt instrument of rewarding landowners simply by virtue of owning land. Under the CAP there were no obligations or conditions to farm or manage land in a way that would benefit wildlife or the environment. This bill paves the way for future government financial aid to be more closely tied to environmentally benign practices, some of which will be lifted directly out of the existing Countryside Stewardship scheme, but with an overall greater emphasis on air, water, and soil health.
We will continue to watch the Agricultural Bill’s progress through Parliament and campaign to ensure the Bill that is passed works for farming and wildlife.