This autumn saw the publication of the first new UK Agriculture Bill for 70 years. It was published alongside a policy statement and together they reaffirm the government’s commitment to public money for public goods. This really is a step change for farming in the UK. By recognising the importance of environmental protection and enhancement the approach is in tune with all Fair to Nature is seeking to achieve!
A key plank of the new policy in England will be the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. Although very much under development, this will supersede the current agri-environment schemes. The ambition is for it to be more results based, simpler to access and allow efficient farming and improving the environment to go hand in hand. A Tests and Trials Advisory Group has been convened to co-design the scheme.
In addition to support for public goods and ELM, the policy also refers to the need to maintain regulatory protections and improve transparency in the supply chain – both really important elements of a more sustainable farming system.
Although these are all positive developments, as always, the devil is in the detail and if this new agriculture policy is going to deliver for people and wildlife there are still crucial details which need to be pinned down.
The Bill provides a framework through which the ambitions of the policy can be delivered but none of this is guaranteed. There are some fairly sizeable holes which will need filling to ensure the new approach does not sink without trace. These include: secure long-term funding; a clear and ambitious purpose to improve the environment and a duty to have an environmental land management scheme to ensure its not lost on the whim of a future government.
You can read more about the Bill here.
Thank you to Lucy Bjorck from the RSPB’s Land Use Policy Unit for this article.