“The biggest shakeup of agriculture legislation in 40 years”.
“Farmers to be paid to protect the environment”.
“Agriculture Bill will spark a new dawn for farming and the environment”.
These are some of the headlines recently hailing this new legislation as something that is revolutionary.
British farming is one of the least intensive in the world, the patchwork of fields, criss-crossing the country with the hedgerows, stone walls and fences create a plethora of different habitats for different wildlife.
“But what about the declining songbird and insect numbers?” shouts the environmental lobby.
I’m not so naive to believe that farming in this country is perfect, but looking across the world, British farmers are some of the best there are; there are many more contributing factors as to why these species are declining than simply the demonic plough.
Almost two-thirds of this country is covered with grassland, its already sequestering carbon and storing it within its soils and plant matter.
This is land that is never ploughed and can’t grow arable crops.
A lot of this land already provides flood storage to protect local towns and cities up and down the country.
Most of what is in the Agriculture Bill as “public money for public goods” is already happening across Britain anyway; its nothing new and innovative, it’s just ecology.
I do believe that we need to do more to protect soils and the environment to leave them in a better state than we find them.
Money v morals
I also believe that farmers are at the forefront of helping to reduce carbon emissions.
It seems to me that most people in this country want us as farmers to look after the environment, to have high animal welfare standards and protect wildlife, but don’t want to pay for that privilege
I am doing my own small bit to help in that fight on my own farm, and I think, for the most part, so is everyone else.
However, will our little bit really help in the global fight?
We say that we want to protect the environment and then ship food all over the world from places where animal welfare standards are nowhere near our own, where they’re mowing the forests down with little or no regard for the wildlife.
We say we want to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions and then go to the supermarket and buy into the very thing that is causing a lot of the problems.
It seems to me that most people in this country want us as farmers to look after the environment, to have high animal welfare standards and protect wildlife, but don’t want to pay for that privilege.
And when it comes to the crunch, they buy without their morals, out of sight out of mind.
If the government wants to help protect the environment they need to, first, protect the industry from cheap imports and, second, they need to help to educate people on what the British farming industry is really like.
And this needs to start at a school level.
As Eisenhower once said, farming is easy when your plough is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a field.