Tag Archives: Agriculture Bill

Is this our Silent Spring moment?

intext-ruthblogLast week the government published the latest statistics on wild bird populations in the UK, which show that the UK is in trouble. The statistics may have slipped under the radar for many given the election’s dominance of the news cycle, but they are a must read for anyone who cares about our natural world.

The latest report shows the relentless decline of many farmland bird populations across the UK. Many of our most loved birds are in trouble including the lapwing, turtle dove, starling, skylark and corn bunting.

Perhaps the most startling thing about this report is that, in many cases, the cause of the decline is known and can be attributed to changes in farming practices and management, increased use of pesticides and historic hedgerow removal.

Major choices have to be made
In 1962, Rachel Carson catapulted concerns about pesticide use in the US into the public eye in her book Silent Spring. Following this there was an intense debate that eventually led to a ban on the pesticide DDT for agricultural uses and also helped to inspire the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

For many years, regulation and the use of pesticides in the UK has been largely decided at the European level. However, after Brexit there are major choices to be made about our future use of pesticides.

With the advent of new environmental legislation through the Agriculture and Environment Bills, we have an opportunity to fundamentally change the way that we manage and care for our land. With the right support, farming can not only provide the healthy food that society needs but also deliver more for nature and help tackle climate change at the same time. Although there are many examples of where this is being done already, it is not business as usual for all farmers.

Here are some priorities for the government to reset the way we manage our land:

  • Public money for public goods must remain the guiding force of future agriculture policy. The Greener UK coalition is calling on all parties to support a new Agriculture Bill that puts this principle at its centre. It would see farmers rewarded for providing public benefits such as clean water, clean air and thriving habitats for wildlife. Long term, substantial funding for farmers should be part of the new contract between the government and land managers.
  • The Environment Bill must lead to ambitious targets to halt the decline in nature and bring about positive improvements. Environmental Land Management Schemes and Local Nature Recovery Strategies will be essential to deliver these improvements as well as targets on restoring and creating new habitats, protecting key species and reducing pesticide use.
  • Environmental principles such as the precautionary principle must be enshrined in law. The government claims that the Environment Bill does just that, but it is wrong. The bill relegates these important legal principles to a policy statement. Instead, there must be an express requirement on public authorities to apply the principles in their policy and decision making. That is the current position and that is what is needed to at least maintain existing protections. Anything less is a regression from current standards.
  • The government’s proposed Local Nature Recovery Strategies must be fully integrated with the new payment system for land managers. The decline of nature means there is no time for dysfunctionality and they must get off to a flying and solid start. Their design and management must involve nature groups, land managers, expert advisers and practitioners.
  • Ministers’ ruminations on high environmental standards must be turned into legal commitments. Future governments will be guided by Acts of Parliament, but warm words are often conveniently set aside when other political considerations come along. A transparent and accountable approach to trade, with people and parliament given a full say in negotiations, will be essential to maintain high standards.


Tax breaks risk undermining new farm support policy

This post is by Miles King of People Need Nature.

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The current tax system operates against the sort of public benefit that the new agricultural policy established by Michael Gove is seeking to create. English landowners receive £2.4 billion a year in tax breaks for which there is little or no benefit to society. This amount of money is almost exactly the same as landowners receive in farm subsidies and it exposes a contradiction: although the system of providing payments to farmers is being fundamentally reformed, the tax breaks received will be untouched. Read more

The new Agriculture Bill has no vision for food

This post is by Tim Lang, professor of food policy, Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London. It has also been published by the Food Research Collaboration.

Tomatoes production line bodyThe Agriculture Bill published last week was long awaited. It’s mostly about money: those £3.2bn Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies which will start evaporating in seven months.

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Why we should celebrate new farm support based on ‘public goods’

meadow-2503453_1920The long awaited agriculture bill has had a pretty resounding thumbs up from environmentalists.  Greener UK described it as “a huge step in the right direction”. Wildlife and Countryside Link called it “an important step forward for farming and wildlife”. WWF’s Tony Juniper tweeted: “For all of the 35 years I’ve been in conservation, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been one of the biggest threats to our wildlife & environment. Today I hope that the tanker begins to turn.” Others heralded “a landmark day” or said that Michael Gove had “fired the starting pistol for change”, or viewed it as “a welcome statement of intent about this Government’s future policy ambitions”. Read more

A future for farming in National Parks


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This article was originally published by the Campaigns for National Parks, and was written by David Corrie-Close, a Lake District farmer at the Horned Beef company.

When I was asked to blog about my farm in the Lake District National Park and how I balance the needs of the farm with the needs of the natural environment, I laughed. My reply, and the subject of this blog, is that the natural environment provides the opportunity for farming. We need to relearn the harmony in which the two chime together.

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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