As conservation policy advocates, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time debating the finer points of UK and EU policies. What percentage of the Pillar 1 CAP budget should be modulated to Pillar 2; how should agri-environment spending be targeted; what rules should be part of cross compliance? Important though these questions are, they don’t exactly grab the imagination of anyone who’s not already intimately involved in farming policy. And we need to grab imaginations: farming affects every one of us through the food we eat and the quality of our environment (not to mention the taxes and food prices we pay). Despite this, many people know little and care less about the policies that help to shape farming. As a result, there is little voter pressure on policy makers to make decisions on agriculture that are in the public interest.
Last year, the agriculture group of Wildlife and Countryside Link decided to take a step back from policy and remind ourselves of what we are actually trying to achieve at the end of the day: a better future for the environment and farming. We spent time discussing among ourselves and with some of the farmers we work with what this might look like and what needs to change to make it happen. The result is Farming Fit for the Future – the shared vision of a diverse group of organisations with interests ranging from wildlife conservation to landscape quality, animal welfare to cultural heritage.
Link launched Farming Fit for the Future at an event in Parliament last week, alongside Water Matters – the Link vision for the future of rivers, lakes and wetlands. The common theme of both documents is that a healthy natural environment needs to be at the heart of how we manage our resources. The event was well-attended and speakers included Secretary of State Liz Truss and arable farmer Tim Farr. Zac Goldsmith MP kindly hosted the event.
Farming Fit for the Future sets out a vision for farming that is better for nature, better for people, better for our land and our livestock, and ready for the future. We don’t anticipate that anyone would disagree with these goals, and in a way that’s the point: we need politicians, farmers, NGOs and others to look beyond the policy wrangling and start working together towards better outcomes. The vision is only the start: in the months and years to come Link will be talking to decision makers about how to make it happen.
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With over 75% of the UK land area being farmed, farming has a huge impact on all our lives and on the wildlife that calls farmland its home. RSPB works closely with farmers all over the UK, and with those that represent them. In this blog Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, discusses a reason meeting between RSPB Scotland and the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS).
Rather than me tell you about it, why not read it for yourselves here. But it a great example of RSPB meeting with the farming community, showing understanding and empathy of many of the problems that affect farming but also continuing to seek solutions that will allow wildlife to flourish on farmland across the UK, and in Scotland in particular in this case.