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NFU's new report highlights role of farming in enhancing the environment

12 December 2018, at 6:00am

UK, 12 December 2018 - The NFU published an important new benchmarking report on the farmed environment, launching with a high-profile stakeholder event in London yesterday (11 December) attended by Defra Minister George Eustice

More than 130 delegates attended the conference, including MPs, the media, retailers and environmental organisations.

Farmers from across the country joined NFU President Minette Batters to highlight the vital role farming plays in protecting and enhancing the environment.

The report details the role farming has played through the generations in shaping Britain’s iconic countryside.

It also highlights the need for a better data-based approach to underpin effective future agricultural and environmental policy-making and to ensure that environmental successes can be recognised, as well as to understand where more work is needed.

Launching the report, NFU President Minette Batters said: "Over recent months I have recognised the need for the NFU to increase awareness of and celebrate the good work our members do to protect, maintain and enhance the environment alongside producing food.

"The desire among our members for us to tell their story forms the basis of today’s event. By using our members’ experiences, observations and evidence, we will ensure they become the driving force in providing the solution for meeting the environmental challenges of our countryside.

"This report provides an honest and balanced appraisal of changes to the farmed environment, with farmer case studies at its heart. I hope it presents farmers with the opportunity to be aspirational - to set out what they would like to see happen and what they need to do to continue improving the farmed environment and their businesses.

"The report highlights the need for better data to benchmark environmental performance in a meaningful way. Without accurate or comprehensive data we will be permanently reliant on anecdotal or cherry-picked evidence which does not show the full picture.

"For example, during last year’s Big Farmland Bird Count, 121 different species of birds were recorded on farm – far more than are found on the government’s official farmland bird index. And there was another success story with barn owls, which have increased by 17 percent above the average of the previous four years."

In the report, the NFU outlines several of its key asks from government:

  • Better data on wider biodiversity delivery, like insects, and more data about soil quality and emissions to air such as ammonia. Access to good data is a recurring theme.

  • Future environmental policies with food production at the heart because farmers are in the best position to manage land for future environmental benefit.

  • A future environmental land management scheme needs to be voluntary, open to all farmers, simple to apply for and administer, and offer a fair reward.

  • Improvements to the delivery of current agri-environment schemes in the short to medium term to make them workable and attractive.

  • Support for farm infrastructure projects, new technologies and innovative tools to help improve productivity while reducing environmental footprint.

  • Science, research and innovation to help increase resource efficiency and further reduce environmental impact.

Next stage

This event marks the start of a new programme of NFU activity highlighting the intricate relationship between food production and the environment.

Mrs Batters said: "It has been great to see such enthusiasm from key industry stakeholders. It is important that our work and its messages remain fresh and engaging.

"In the coming months we will be externally commissioning subject-specific investigations on our environmental themes – landscape and access, biodiversity, soil, water, and air - and will utilise a full range of media to tell farmers’ environment stories.

"In addition, we are continuing our long standing work with Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), a volunteer industry steering group, and hope its rebrand in the new year reflects the need to celebrate and champion what farmers do to manage wildlife and the countryside.

"For me, the project is about ownership, pride and control for our members. We are all united by our environment, our food and our future and it is vital that we acknowledge and appreciate the huge amount of work farmers are doing, and will continue to do, towards safeguarding all three."

To hear more from the farmers featured in the report, please click here.

Further Reading

You can view the full NFU report entitled United by our environment, our food, our future by clicking here.