Farmers are being urged to get on the front foot and explain to MPs and the general public the invaluable work they do to protect and enhance the environment.
The NFU held its first conference to highlight the important environmental work carried out by farmers and land managers in shaping the UK’s iconic landscape.
The event in London on Tuesday (11 December) also saw the launch of the union’s new report, “United by our environment, our food, our future” (PDF).
The 20-page report celebrates some of the invaluable environmental work farmers have done under agri-environment schemes over the past decade.
This includes the maintenance, management and restoration of 280,000km of hedgerows, ditches and stonewalls and planting the equivalent of 10,000 football pitches of wildflower habitat for bees and other pollinators.
‘Balance food and environment’
NFU president Minette Batters said: “We want to rise to the challenge to be the first generation to leave the environment better off than how we found it.
“Farm businesses play an irreplaceable role in shaping the countryside we all enjoy today. Every sector and every type of farm continues to carry out a huge amount of work to protect and enhance the landscape, encourage wildlife, benefit soil and water, and reduce the impact on the climate.
“But, crucially, farmers are food producers too… balancing the environment’s needs while producing safe, affordable food is key.”
The report features cases studies of farmers with a passion for the environment, such as livestock farmer Thomas Binns, who has created more than 11km of hedgerows at his farm in the Pendle Hill area of east Lancashire, alongside producing fresh lamb for British consumers.
It also sets out what farmers would like to see happen, including the support from government to continue enhancing the farmed environment and their own food-producing businesses.
The NFU’s key asks of government also include: access to better data on biodiversity delivery to benchmark environmental performance and support for science, research, innovation and farm infrastructure projects to improve productivity while reducing environmental impact.
“The bottom line is that farm businesses need to be productive and profitable to be able to continue to deliver the environmental benefits that we all want to see,” said Ms Batters.
Farm minister George Eustice told the conference that future environmental payments would be “more generous” than they are today and that Defra would move away from the constraints of the current “income foregone” model and a “clipboard mentality”.
NFU President @Minette_Batters shares some of the incredible environmental statistics highlighted in our new report 'United by our environment, our food, our future' https://t.co/FeA866BFYe #OurFarmedEnvironment pic.twitter.com/6njNWu4gCF
— National Farmers Union (@NFUtweets) December 11, 2018