Agriculture Bill: Farming and environmental groups unite on crucial long-term funding message

30 October 2018

Agriculture Bill: Farming and environmental groups unite on crucial long-term funding message

Farmers, landowners and environmental groups are bringing a united message to Parliament today (30 October) calling for the Government to commit to long-term funding for the policies detailed in the new Agriculture Bill.

While these groups each seek independent amendments to the Agriculture Bill more widely, they are united in their advocacy that a commitment to long-term funding is crucial to achieving the Government’s ambitions of feeding the nation with high quality food alongside delivering environmental benefits. 

The organisations are jointly hosting a drop-in event in Parliament this afternoon to present this message to MPs and Peers. They are the Agricultural Industries Confederation, CLA (Country Land and Business Association), National Farmers Union, National Federation of Young Farmers, National Sheep Association, Nature Friendly Farming Network, Soil Association, Tenant Farmers Association, and Greener UK which represents a coalition of 13 major environmental organisations including National Trust, RSPB, Woodland Trust, WWF and The Wildlife Trusts.

Politicians expected to attend include Defra Secretary Michael Gove and Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman. They will be urged to support the organisations’ unified bid for the Agriculture Bill to establish a long term multi-annual budgetary framework, that delivers certainty for the rural economy and farming.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “Good land management and profitable farming delivering a healthy environment requires long-term planning. The CLA fully supports Government’s aspirations for a productive farming sector that also provides a range of public goods for society, but politicians must recognise that delivery of new policies in the Agriculture Bill will require change and investment by farms and landowners. Greater certainty on longer-term funding intentions will help provide the confidence needed to make these changes.”

Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight said: “There is a much-heightened awareness of the important role that trees play in society and of the need to significantly increase planting rates in this country.  The Woodland Trust wishes to see a far more integrated approach to land management that enables the many benefits of trees at a variety of scales – from larger scale planting to smaller agro-forestry initiatives – to be realised. The Agriculture Bill provides an opportunity to break down the barriers that have artificially divided farming and forestry for so long but it is essential that it is amended to provide a long-term funding mechanism.  Land managers need to have confidence in the new system that sufficient support will be forthcoming to back them in delivering key public goods like more resilient and biodiverse habitats, flood alleviation and healthy soils.”

Tenant Farmers Association National Chairman, James Gray said: “The aspiration to create a long-term policy for food, farming and the environment must be matched with a long-term commitment to funding.  Having the right framework for a multi-annual budget must be a key component of the Agriculture Bill."

Patrick Begg, Outdoors and Natural Resources Director at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust supports the Government’s plans for a new farming support system, focused on paying farmers to deliver public goods for which there is no market, but big public benefit, such as public access or improving nature. Many of these public goods like soil health and water quality are also critical to the long-term survival of food production. But if the government wants its new system to work, it must provide the certainty and security of long term, multi annual budgets, based on an assessment of the costs of providing these goods, so that farmers can invest in the knowledge they will get a fair return for their efforts. This should be teamed with action in the supply chain to secure a better price for farmers at the farm gate.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Minette Batters said: “The NFU believes the Agriculture Bill offers the Government a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of farming policy. It is crucial that this piece of legislation has food production at its heart, which will ensure farmers continue to deliver safe, traceable and affordable food while maintaining our high environmental and animal welfare standards. Farming is a long-term business and farmers need clarity on what their regulatory environment will look like now for the years ahead. A commitment from Government in the Agriculture Bill that they will provide this certainty through clear long-term funding is essential.”

Debbie Tripley, Director of Environmental Policy and Advocacy at WWF, said: “The UK has some of the most degraded nature in the world. Since 70 percent of the country is used for agriculture, this bill offers one of the most important legislative opportunities for us to begin restoring nature, for wildlife and people. If the UK wants to be a global leader on the environment, we have to walk the talk here at home. That means making a long-term investment in this transformation.”