Category Archives: Natural environment

How Michael Gove can unleash a new wave of farming entrepreneurs

English Longhorn cattle on Cissbury Ring, West Sussex, in winter

For farmers, change is a way of life. Weather is unpredictable. Consumer appetites change. Prices go up and down. Managing uncertainty and volatility goes with the job.

But the ability of farmers to keep bouncing back will soon be tested to its limits, and possibly beyond. Brexit will bring change of a scale and at a speed that will dwarf anything seen by the current generation of farmers. This could include changes to the availability and cost of labour, the size and terms of subsidy payments, the potential imposition of new import and export tariffs and, should certain trade deals be struck, increased competition from low cost food imports. Not all farmers will cope. Many are likely to fail. Read more

Why we need to look beyond subsidies to save UK farming

field agriculture farm crops england ukUK farming is in crisis. Forty per cent of farms make no profit. Farm debt is soaring. Farmers are taking home an ever decreasing share of what we spend on food and, over the long term, food prices have been dropping.

Many farmers are stuck in a cycle of working the land ever harder just to break even. This is taking a heavy toll on the asset that farming relies on most of all – nature –  as regular reports from the State of Nature partnership and the Natural Capital Committee make clear.

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A border won’t be enough to control fish – only co-operation can

6926612069_923fe1576c_bThis post is by Griffin Carpenter, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation.

Michael Gove has purportedly shown us what ‘taking back control’ really means, by drawing a 12-mile line around the UK for exclusive fishing access for British vessels. Now he has his sights set on an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 miles (or the median line). On a map, this looks like a win for British influence in the world, reminiscent of times past and conquering new territory. But the nature of influence and the transboundary movements of those pesky fish mean that this drive to etch battle lines has the notion of control completely backwards. Real control requires co-operation and shared management. Unfortunately, the idea of control offered by the most buccaneering Brexiteers does not seem to involve much co-operation at all. Read more

Will Brexit break down or expand the new approaches that have been improving our rivers?

4725930223_ff9367f2fa_b - CopyThis post is by Richard Benwell, head of government affairs at WWT.

Every stretch of river has its own character. Here are a few of the personalities I’ve got to know over the years:

  • Beverley Brook – small, beautiful, prone to outbursts; a Richmond river with a film star name
  • Byron’s Pool – tranquil, romantic, deep and surrounded by wildlife (but no bears)
  • Thames at Lechlade – the first point where Old Father Thames gives a hint of his power
  • The Severn Estuary – the last point of the UK’s longest river; a famous bore

Each has its own charms and needs. It’s this diversity that can help to inspire communities to love and protect their rivers and it’s the reason why every portion of every river needs to be given its own care. The attention that will calm the bursting banks of Beverley Brook might be a drop in the ocean elsewhere.

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Agricultural subsidy should shift towards public benefits

K Pic 2This post is by Marcus Gilleard, senior external affairs adviser, National Trust. It is a version of an article first published on National Trust’s NT Places blog.

Nearly a year ago, the National Trust’s Director-General Helen Ghosh set out the basic principles on which we believed a post-Brexit system of support for UK farming should be developed. Since then, we’ve fleshed out our thinking and joined forces with other charities, as part of Greener UK, to help the UK and devolved governments develop their proposals. A core focus of our work remains the concept that public money should pay for the delivery of public goods. Read more

How to improve the balance between UK nature conservation and food production

Eurasian skylark. Skylark seated in a rape field.This post is by Claire Feniuk, land use policy officer at the RSPB.

If Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that people don’t like compromise, they really much prefer to have their cake and eat it. This week, I was invited to join a panel discussion at a Defra Evidence event hosted by the Royal Society, to give my thoughts on the trade-offs between nature conservation and food production. Read more

Brexit creates an opportunity to support UK food production and restore nature


Zwei Lämmer liegend auf einer WieseThis post is by the Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, second church estates commissioner and former secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

The UK agriculture sector has always sought to provide good quality food at a reasonable price, which is the very purpose of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). However, we cannot ignore that it has come at a price to many growers and that agriculture is under pressure. Read more

Agriculture at a crossroads… again

cowsThis post is by Tom Lancaster, senior land use policy officer at RSPB.

If you do a Google search for ‘agriculture at a crossroads’ you’ll see that it’s a well used term. But when considering the implications of Brexit for farming and land use, it feels more relevant now than ever before.

Leaving the European Union will be one of the most defining events for farming and the environment in living memory. Whilst there are many potential pitfalls, the UK’s exit from the EU also presents an opportunity to rethink how the country can secure more sustainable farming and land use for people and the environment in the years and decades ahead.

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As we leave the EU we must plan for nature’s recovery

1031572This post is by Ali Plummer, wildlife law campaigner at The Wildlife Trusts.

Over the coming months and years, as the UK government begins the task of negotiating exit from the European Union, we have a rare and historical moment to ask ourselves – what kind of country do we want to live in?  As the negotiations continue, there is the risk that these questions become lost in the seemingly abstract and inaccessible language of trade and commerce, and the moment is lost. But there is a way to recapture the moment: through considering our natural environment, whose fate – and by extension ours – is very much entwined with the future of our relationship with the EU. Read more

We need to find common ground on sustainable fisheries

fisheries-copyThis post is by Lyndsey Dodds, head of UK and EU marine policy at WWF.

Since the EU referendum, there has been much talk of the ‘sea of opportunity’ for fisheries but little detail on what it will look like in practice and how we can go further than the status quo, to become world leaders on sustainable fisheries management.

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