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Nature and environment legal targets welcome but farm environment schemes must go further and faster

The Sustain Alliance comments on new consultations on targets for protecting environment and nature recovery launched today by Environment Secretary George Eustice. In a joint briefing, Sustain Alliance members also call for the new farm environment schemes to be prioritsed and go further and faster so all farmers have the finance, advice and mandate to deliver better for nature and climate, whilst producing healthy food.

Farm gate. Credit: Pexels

Farm gate. Credit: Pexels

In response to new consulations on legal targets for nature and recent calls to pause the implementation of the Environmental Land Management schemes, Vicki Hird, Head of Farming at Sustain says:

“The UK can’t hope to improve its food security if our soil and land is exhausted, water courses polluted and nature depleted. Biodiversity is an essential part of our food system, so Sustain welcomes proposals for new legally binding targets to protect and nurture it. But farming is not finding an easy path to do this in an ever harsher market. We urge the Government to go further and faster in helping all farmers to embrace new nature-friendly, climate boosting farming approaches, such as organic, agroforestry and diverse mixed farming and cropping, which can deliver healthy food alongside richer nature and carbon storage.”

To complement legal targets, we need effective support for farmers. With Sustain, alliance members the Landworkers Alliance, Soil Association, Nature Friendly Farmers Network, and Organic Farmers and Growers, have prepared a briefing calling on Defra to maintain and strengthen the Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes and Agricultural Transition Plan (ATP). This is to counter some calls for a halt to ELM and the ATP in response to food security issues in light of the war in Ukraine and impacts on input costs, food prices and accessbility.

In summary 

The war in Ukraine is posing global challenges to food security and the cost of food and farm inputs. The UK Government needs to guard against short-term and harmful policy responses and stand firm on the Agricultural Transition Plan.

The Government needs to support farmers to deliver public goods and produce healthy food in an ecologically positive way by rolling out an ambitious set of Environmental Land Management schemes that go further and faster. Government also needs to rethink a narrow approach to food security to one that integrates environmental, social and economic elements of the food system.

Recommendations:

  1. Defra does not pause the current timeframe for the Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes and the Agricultural Transition Plan (ATP).
  2. Defra could consider a separate short-term emergency fund to help farmers and growers withstand the increasing costs of production.
  3. That Government should publish its overdue response to the National Food Strategy.

The full briefing can be read here.

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Published 16 Mar 2022

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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