The increased focus on rewarding environmental benefits within the new Agriculture Bill is encouraging, say policy staff at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). Research undertaken by the GWCT shows the important role the farmers can play in maintaining and improving so-called ‘public goods’ such as soil health and water quality in addition to feeding our growing population.
The Trust also welcomes a clear transitional timeline and the promise of a simplified stewardship scheme, both of which will enable farmers and land managers to plan for the future and focus on delivering these goods rather than an administrative burden.
The GWCT, which has used practical research at its Allerton Project demonstration farm to help advise national policy for more than 20 years, set out its own vision for post-Brexit agricultural policy earlier this year. Director of policy, Dr Alastair Leake, welcomes the Bill and hopes it will give more control to those on the ground looking to make a difference. “A clear, accessible stewardship scheme is essential if we are to get the most out of our managed landscape. Well-intentioned farmers have grown frustrated with a complex and time-consuming process under CAP and this Bill looks to give them the chance to do what they do best – provide food for Britain’s people, habitat for its wildlife and support for its environment. We look forward to working with Defra to deliver a plan that works for all three.”
The commitment to funding up to 2021 gives farmers the chance to plan ahead in the short-term, but not information on further funding, or how a ‘payment by results’ system would work have been included in the latest announcement. Dr Leake highlighted this, noting “The environmental aspirations of the Bill should help to give the British countryside the boost it needs, but this needs to be backed with financial commitment. Only once we know the detail can we start to assess what is possible.”
The organisation's 24-page policy document 'Farming through Brexit: a vision for the future' is available to read at www.gwct.org.uk/brexitfarming