The Environment Act: our work and what happens next

23 November 2021

An image of fields and a stone wall in Derbyshire farmland

After two years in Parliament the Environment Act is now law. It's broad and ambitious in nature, setting out plans to protect and improve the natural environment.

The Environment Act is essentially an Act of two halves. The first half puts in place a framework of legislation for environmental governance. The second half puts in place legislation under a number of different environmental themes to achieve a number of the ambitions set out in the government's 25 Year Environment Plan.

We lobbied on various aspects of the Act throughout its passage through Parliament, ensuring that it best supports British farmers to protect our environment and continue to produce high quality food to world-leading standards.

We're working on a full briefing for members on what the Act means which will be added to this page shortly.

NFU Environment Forum chair, Richard Bramley, said: “Alongside producing sustainable, climate-friendly food, farmers are custodians of the countryside. Our industry has already embarked on a long journey of protecting and maintaining the iconic British countryside. Farmers carry out huge amounts of work to enhance landscapes, benefit soils, water, and air quality, encourage wildlife, and reduce our impact on the climate as we make progress towards our net zero ambition."

How did the NFU influence the content of the Environment Act?

Our interest in the development of the Environment Act has been to encourage food production and land management policies to go hand-in-hand. We believe measures for protecting and enhancing the environment must be joined up with policies that support farming’s ability to improve productivity. This is the only way to manage volatility to ensure we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses, both now and in the future.

Conservation covenants

One of the key successes in our lobbying efforts during the passage of the Act through Parliament has been the stipulation that conservation covenants need to be signed in deed. Conservation covenants are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a third party, which enable landowners to make long-term commitments to conservation. Ensuring that these agreements are well drafted and the parties to them fully understand the nature of the commitments they are entering into is vital to their success.    

Further consultation and engagement

There are many aspects of the Act that will see further consultation and engagement, including the government’s ambition for new environmental targets. We will continue to work across government, parliament and wider society to support British farmers to protect our environment while continuing to produce high-quality, climate-friendly food to world-leading standards.

See a timeline of our campaigning work on the Bill

NFU members: Log in to see a timeline of all the campaigning work we've done on the Environment Bill since it was first announced in July 2018.

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