NFU President writes to The Times challenging 'wilder farming' column

First published: 31 January 2022

NFU President Minette Batters outside barn on farm

Minette Batters has challenged a columnist's views on rewilding and the impact farming has on nature.

NFU President Minette Batters has written to The Times challenging claims from columnist Ben Goldsmith that dismisses concerns that rewilding would significantly impact domestic food production.

No recognition of on-farm environmental work

Mr Goldsmith, a non-exec board member of Defra, also said that farming was the cause for much of the nature decline in the UK, not recognising the vast amount of environmental work delivered on farms across the country.

In her letter to the paper, Minette said:

It would appear Ben Goldsmith has forgotten, or chosen to ignore, the 10,000 football pitches' worth of wildflowers that provide homes for bees or the 411,000km of hedgerows on farms that provide habitat for wildlife.

Farmers are passionate about the environment. It’s no accident that farmers spotted more than 112,000 birds from the Red List of Conservation Concern last year – hardly a nature-depleted countryside.

Our iconic farmed landscape is valued by the nation and tourists alike. Just ask the public – they make more than 4 billion visits to the British countryside each year.

We now have an opportunity to better value farming and all that it delivers. Without farmers, particularly those in the uplands, we would not have these cherished landscapes or the climate-friendly food they produce.

Government must focus on land sharing to deliver food security and environmental delivery, not a singular approach that risks undermining the social fabric of rural communities.

Do we want to follow a path that sends farms out of businesses and simply results in more imports of food from countries produced to standards that would be illegal here?

I don’t, and I don’t believe the British public do either.

You can read the letter in The Times' online edition (this page is gated for those who do not subscribe to The Times newspaper).

We will continue to challenge misinformed claims on our members' behalf and keep the public up to date about the valuable work farmers do to protect and care for the British countryside, as well as producing climate-friendly food.

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