The Wildlife Trust has been joined by the National Trust and RSPB in greeting the new Sustainable Farming Initative with disappointment, saying it fails to come up with ambitious financial rewards, undermining their ability to boost nature-friendly farming.
The eagerly-awaited scheme had been touted to pay farmers for managing land more sustainably, restoring nature and tackling climate change - as farming accounts for more than 10 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions,
Conservationists and farmers were hoping that the Government would encourage farmers to stop harming the environment with air and water pollution and soil erosion, but say the plan will mean few changes from the EU's Common Agricultrual Policy.
The organisations feel that Sustainable Farming Incentive standards must have a minimum requirement on farmers and land managers to manage 10 per cent of their land for
nature and an option for improving access – and it does not do this.
They believe that promises made by Government in its 25-year environment plan are now in jeopardy, instead of playing a central role in nature’s recovery. And it would mean nature-
friendly farmers will be left behind as larger farms will reap the benefits.
And in Lancashire, where the Wildlife Trust’s pioneering carbon farm is offering an agricultural solution which can benefit the environment, wildlife and farmers, there is concern that this and similar innovative opportunities will be missed.
>>>Click here to read about Lancashire's 'carbon farm' helping to tackle climate change.
Tom Burditt, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchesster and Merseyside, said: “We’re spitting feathers. This is bad news for nature and bad news for small farmers around the North West, especially all those who love nature and have been working so hard to look after and restore it.
“Don’t be led by the positive spin being put out that this is good for soils. That is just a small step in the right direction but from a sustainable and nature friendly farm business point of
view this glass is only 10 per cent full. In other words, it is 90 per cent empty.
"It is a huge missed opportunity for ensuring that our tax payers money is being used to help to deliver the “public goods” we all so badly need like thriving wildlife, cleaner air, less flooding, and the slowing of catastrophic climate change.”
Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “After leaving the EU, we were promised that the billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money given to farmers would be used to improve our natural world. But today’s publication shows a shocking lack of ambition which does very little to address the climate and nature crises.
"The Government seems intent on perpetuating the iniquities of the EU’s much derided Common Agricultural Policy. Worse still, nature-friendly farmers look set to lose out too.
“There’s so much that farmers could be rewarded for doing, such as restoring peatlands and employing ambitious measures to prevent soil and pollutants from washing into rivers – to
help wildlife and store carbon. It’s an absolute scandal that the Government has failed to seize this unique and important opportunity to improve farming so it can help restore nature and address the climate crisis.”