A coalition of NI environmental organisations and farmers is calling on government to help farmers to save nature.
The call came two days before the close of the public’s chance to submit views on the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairson proposals for NI’s Future Farming.
Speaking at a photocall at the steps of Stormont, Heather McLachlan of National Trust and the Nature Matters NI campaign said: “Brexit presents a once in a generation opportunity to re-think how we are doing things, we need to create a sustainable food and farming system that works for people and nature.
“Farmers and the general public in NI have been getting on board with our campaign. They want a countryside that is filled with wildlife whilst producing sustainable and healthy food. In recent weeks well over 1,000 people have emailed the Department locally asking decision makers to ensure that protection and restoration of the environment is at the core of post-Brexit agriculture policy.”
Chairman of NI Environment Link, and the Nature Matters NI campaign, Patrick Casement said:“To date, support for farming from the public purse has failed to provide either a countryside that is rich in nature or a stable agriculture sector. As we leave the EU, we need to ensure that agriculture is delivering significantly for farmers and tax-payers. Now is NI’s chance to design a policy that delivers more for farmers, the public and the environment whilst helping to put the agricultural industry on a sustainable footing for generations to come.
“Farmers and land managers must be rewarded for farming practices that work with nature, with significant funding directed towards delivering a range of environmental benefits such as clean water, biodiversity, clean air and healthy soils.”
Standing alongside the leaders from the Nature Matters NI campaign, were representatives from the recently formed Northern Ireland Nature Friendly Farming Network.
Their chairperson, farmer John Carson said: “Brexit offers a massive opportunity for farmers to work better with nature. By working together, and thinking on a landscape scale, we can transition to a better system where farmers receive a fair price for their food, whilst also providing numerous important benefits to society such as clean air and carbon storage in the soil.”