Farming is a positive force for the environment and makes a significant contribution to the countryside and British wildlife, the NFU said today.
The comments come as a group of environmental organisations launch the ‘State of Nature’ report, which suggests 60% of species included in the study have declined during recent years.
Farmer support for initiatives such as the industry-led Campaign for the Farmed Environment, and Defra’s stewardship schemes, provides an extremely positive basis in which wildlife can thrive.
Farmers are also managing their environmental footprint - for example we’ve reduced pesticide pollution by up to a third in sensitive water catchment and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have declined by 19%.
NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: “No farmer will welcome news that wildlife populations are deteriorating. Indeed, many farmers and visitors to the countryside will be surprised about the report’s findings, given the huge effort farmers now place on managing the environment.
“For example our work with the RSPB and other conservation bodies on the Campaign for the Farmed Environment has brought more than 200,000 hectares of land into positive conservation management since 2009. This in addition to more than 50,000 agreements farmers have in the government’s environmental stewardship.
“The State of Nature reports that wildlife populations have changed significantly during the last 50 years.
“But no area of our economy or society has stood still over this same time period, and farming and the countryside are no different. Urbanisation, climate change and changing land use have all had their impact as the report argues.
“The challenge the report offers is to find ways in which farming can continue to produce high quality British food, be a positive force in the countryside and support the nation’s wildlife.”