Reward farmers for maintaining & improving landscapes, NFU says

Uplands landscape, Pendle Hill, Lancashire_59354

The NFU is today launching a new report which showcases the extensive role British farming plays in maintaining the nation’s iconic landscapes and sets out how future policy needs to enable farmers to continue this pivotal role.

The report sets out that the government’s new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) must be accessible to all farmers and reward them for the role they are best placed to play in maintaining and improving their landscape.

With over a year passing since the Glover review into our landscapes, and still no government response, the report reveals that:

  • The public have rights of access on more than 225,000km of public rights of way in England and Wales, which is the equivalent distance of 15 trips to Australia.
  • Farmers maintain more than 411,000km of hedgerows in England and Wales, enough to wrap around the earth’s equator more than 10 times.
  • Farmland is the destination of 48% of visits to the natural environment in England, totalling around 4.1 billion visits every year.

NFU President Minette Batters 2020 Portrait_74655

NFU President Minette Batters said: “For generations farmers have created and maintained the iconic British countryside we all enjoy today, supporting rural economies and providing high quality, safe food for the nation. Our working landscapes will continue to change but the one constant is those farmers managing and shaping this land.

“The combination of the ordinary everyday role of producing our food helps to create the extraordinary landscape we all cherish. Features such as hedges, trees, cattle grazing fields and crops being harvested all contribute to the wonderfully varied landscapes we see today.  They are all a direct result of farmers’ dual role as food producers and custodians of our countryside. Rewarding farmers for this work not only makes economic sense, it also ensures those with expertise stay on the land, doing the job we value so much.

“We are at a pivotal time for the future of farming and the countryside. We are already doing so much for the environment, but with the right policies in place we can do so much more. Whether it is incentives to conserve carbon through the soil, manage bigger hedgerows or plant more woodland, we do need policies that work together to support the delivery of agriculture’s net zero ambition and to ensure we have a farmed environment that can both feed the nation and thrive with wildlife.”

The NFU Landscape and Access report follows the NFU’s Farmed Environment report from 2018.

The five key policy asks in the report are:

  1. Every farmer has a contribution to make; future Environment Land Management schemes must be open and accessible to all farmers, simple to access, with fair reward for maintaining and improving landscape features (e.g. stone walls or traditional farm buildings) and access (e.g. permissive access and engaging/educating the public) across the countryside.
  2. Where landscape scale impact is desirable, government must ensure projects are developed and led by farmers to harness their local knowledge of what works, where.
  3. To help deliver agriculture’s net zero aspiration, incentives should be offered for the conservation of our carbon resources as well as their enhancement. This can be achieved through the provision of bigger hedgerows, more woodland and especially carbon rich soils.
  4. Considering the Glover review recommendations, the NFU calls on protected landscape bodies to actively recognise and enable the thriving, viable farm businesses that manage the landscape.
  5. The development of a modern and adaptable public access network that meets the needs of users and farm businesses.

© 2020 - NFUonline