Farming for the future

Paul Harris/2020VISION

“A wildlife-rich natural world is vital for our wellbeing and survival. We need wild places to thrive. Yet many of our systems and laws have failed the natural world. We now live in one of the most nature depleted places on the planet. Nature urgently needs our help to recover – and it can be done.”

Sir David Attenborough

Kent Wildlife Trust has a vision of a #Wilder Kent, where an abundance and diversity of wildlife thrives, where nature is healthy and connected and where we all receive its numerous benefits: clean air, sustainable energy, fresh food, beautiful surroundings and much, much more.  Every person, business and industry can make a positive difference to our natural world. 

So where better to make a difference than the agriculture industry, which is responsible for managing a full 70% of the UK’s land area?  The way farmland is managed has an enormous impact on the benefits it can bring to the whole environment: it can affect soil quality, carbon capture, flood management and the survival – or not – of hundreds if not thousands of species.  A recent poll showed 92% of the public want farming to focus on tackling the climate and nature crises [1].

The Agriculture Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, is a big step towards a future farming system that takes an active role in nature’s recovery.  The proposed Bill sets out a future where farmers are supported to support wildlife and other types of ecosystem services.  As the Bill progresses it’s vital that Government retains this focus on providing “public money for public goods”.  But more needs to be done to make this legislation really work for nature, and ultimately for us:

  1. Quickly progress the development of agriculture policy to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – specifically the Environmental Land Management system (ELMS).
  2. Reward farmers and land managers properly through long-term and substantial funding – at least £3bn - for their role in fighting the climate and nature crisis and delivering benefits to society for which the market cannot pay[2].
  3. Close gaps in our post-EU regulatory regime, like safeguarding of ponds and hedgerows, and include a power to introduce and enforce a new regulatory framework for agriculture which addresses the gaps[3].
  4. Ensure that future trade deals and legislation prevent damage to nature and natural resources, now and for future generations.
Farming

Paul Harris/2020VISION

Kent Wildlife Trust is working with local farmers to ensure the ELMS scheme works in practice at a landscape scale.  We are setting up and facilitating two cross-border farmer clusters (traversing Kent and Sussex), where farmers work together, supported by external advisors, to create better outcomes for nature than would be possible working alone. 

These two new clusters follow on from the successful development of our first farmer cluster, based around the River Beult near Ashford.  We are helping all cluster members feed their expertise into the evolution of the new ELMS system, giving them an advantageous head start in understanding the implementation of the new system over the coming years.  This builds resilience within our local farming communities and amplifies local farming voices at a national level.

By supporting positive change from both Government and farmers, we can help farming give our wildlife the future it deserves.

[1] An online omnibus poll with 2140 UK adults was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Wildlife and Countryside Link between 18-19 December 2019. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)
[2] See 3 billion needed for nature friendly farming
[3] Hedgehogs, yellowhammers and dragonflies at risk post-EU Exit