UK 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.
This 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
Since the EU referendum, there has been growing pressure for clarity over two things. First, how an independent UK will protect its natural environment, and, second, how we will pay for it, as most of the legislation that currently directs these areas comes from the EU.
Very soon, the government will be laying down the first major marker for its approach with its 25 year plan for the environment. The title is perhaps slightly misleading; it will not be a plan, rather an outline for how to develop a plan. But the signs are that it will contain some heartening aspirations and set out a strong framework. And above all, it will bring welcome clarity to an area where before there was only speculation and uncertainty.
This post is by Green Alliance’s chair, Dame Fiona Reynolds.
For the many people who care about the beauty of our countryside and the natural environment, this is the big question of our time. We know the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been a net negative for the environment, yet we also know that the majority of the UK’s rural landscapes will continue to be farmed. So now is the time to get some anchors in the ground about what should be the principles underpinning a new farming and food production policy, even if it’s too early to put the details in place. Read more
It’s heretical for a think tank to admit this, but our latest big idea is not really that big. It is in fact medium sized and achievable step from where we are now. It’s an idea so obvious, that once you hear it, you’ll be surprised it’s not happening already. But it isn’t, we checked. Rather than coming up with another big idea for nature, Green Alliance, in partnership with the National Trust, has researched how to enable existing big ideas, around ecosystem services and natural capital, to translate into real changes on the ground. The result is the Natural Infrastructure Scheme (NIS), a new market mechanism which would mean farmers and other land managers could financially benefit from environmental improvements such as flood alleviation and habitat creation. We think its simplicity could lead to ‘payments for ecosystem services’ becoming a mainstream market, reversing declines in nature, and supporting new, environmentally beneficial approaches to farming in the UK.