Local farmers make a stand for nature

Northern Ireland farmers Philip Bell (middle) and John Carson (right) at Westminster
Northern Ireland farmers Philip Bell (middle) and John Carson (right) at Westminster

Irish farmers descended on Westminster on Wednesday to demand that the government prioritises nature friendly farming in the forthcoming Agriculture Bill.

Members of the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) travelled to Westminster to stand up for nature in Parliament.

The NFFN met with MPs to lobby for an Agriculture Bill that puts nature at the heart of farming policy.

The Agriculture Bill is currently at Committee Stage and under debate in Westminster. Even though the Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said CAP payments will be replaced by subsidies that reward farmers for delivering public goods, MPs can still make amendments.

The farmer-led NFFN has put together five key policy asks for MPs:

1. All UK government departments should lead by example, supporting high quality, sustainable and nature friendly British food production.

2. Productivity must be underpinned by sustainability to ensure long-term food security.

3. Rewards farmers financially for delivering environmental benefits.

4. Future trade deals must not undercut the high agricultural and environmental standards delivered by UK farmers.

5. The Bill must set basic standards for sustainable land management.

Martin Lines, Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “At this stage of the debate the Agriculture Bill can still be amended, which means the fight for nature and sustainable farming is not over yet. Mr Michael Gove may have promised to use public money to reward farmers for delivering public goods, but the devil is in the detail. Certainty is key here and MPs have a chance to create a policy that works for farmers and nature.”

The Public Bill Committee will report on the final Agriculture Bill by Tuesday 20 November 2018. Over the next three weeks, MPs can demand changes to future policy to support Britain’s rural economy post-Brexit.

NFFN members spoke to MPs in Westminster about how their individual farming practices produce sustainable food for the country whilst also providing numerous benefits to the environment and society such as healthy soils, clean air and habitat restoration.