NFU provide evidence to Environment Bill Committee

diane mitchell and generic field background, nfu environment, nfu staff_35086

In January, the government published its landmark and ambitious Environment Bill. The NFU welcomes some aspects of the Bill but believes some improvements could be made to ensure that environmental enhancement policies are carefully considered, and that food production and the environment go hand in hand.

On Tuesday (March 10), NFU chief environment adviser Dr Diane Mitchell gave evidence to the Environment Bill Committee which is scrutinising the details of the Environment Bill.

She said: “We think that the ELM scheme will be really important in future, but it has to work hand in hand with food production. The measures that are developed need to consider farmers' views, alongside protecting and enhancing the environment. Those things need to be considered together.

“As I understand it, from a recent document that Defra has published, there will be three tiers to a future scheme—or that is what is proposed. Designing those different tiers will be really important in ensuring that the scheme remains accessible to all farmers and that the payment rates act as an incentive or are encouraging. As I say, they need to be designed alongside food production and they need to work for farmers as well as for the environment.”

On concerns about provisions in the Environment Bill to revoke or amend abstraction licences, Dr Mitchell added: “Abstraction licences are important for business security and certainty. Years' worth of investment has gone into some businesses to ensure that people have access to water. That investment has been made in the knowledge that they have permission to abstract. It could create a lot of uncertainty for a number of our members.”

Other witnesses giving evidence to the panel of MPs included: Mayor Philip Glanville, Member of the LGA Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, Local Government Association; Alan Law, Deputy Chief Executive, Natural England; Dr Sue Young, Head of Land Use Planning and Ecological Networks, Wildlife Trusts; Judicaelle Hammond, Director of Policy, Country Land and Business Association; Rico Wojtulewicz, Head of Housing and Planning Policy, House Builders Association (HBA), National Federation of Builders; Ruth Chambers, Senior Parliamentary Affairs Associate, Greener UK; Rebecca Newsom, Head of Politics, Greenpeace; Ali Plummer, Senior Policy Officer, RSPB.

  • Posted by: And Mrs M And S KettlewellPosted on: 24/03/2020 10:48:39

    Comment: We have had 3 iterations of Stewardship schemes in 25 years and now the 4th , ELMS, is about to be rolled out to deliver a plethora of ‘public goods’. What these goods are exactly has yet to be finalized. ELMS will soon be trialed, but it is already clear it will replace the current and previous Stewardship schemes for those that join up but NOT cover any loss of the SFP, which will disappear by 2028. DEFRA is aiming to save loads of money.

    Experience with previous stewardship schemes has been, at best, patchy. We, like many farmers who have enthusiastically adopted these environmental measures, have recorded significant local increases in biodiversity, some more than others. Insects of all sorts, flowers, amphibians, reptiles and birds have increased, but this has not translated into measurable changes nationally. These schemes, therefore, have failed their primary objective to restore the national collapses in biodiversity, and ELMS will also fail unless it is much more generous and encouraging than what has gone before.

    For ELMS to succeed in delivering on carbon capture, water and flood management, air quality and biodiversity restoration, it will need near universal uptake. Therefore DEFRA will need to inject the entire budget, at the very least, currently allocated to the SFP and Stewardship schemes to have a national impact. Anything less is doomed to fail as even more farmers are driven to chase margins and yields to survive in our unbalanced marketplace.

    The ecological and environmental problems we all face are the consequence of the market in which we operate. No one sector is to be blamed, but producing food while restoring our environment cannot come cheap. Look at the huge continuing costs of the cold war nuclear arms race or our starved NHS hoping to cope with the consequences of Covid19.

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