Nature: moving forward, post-Brexit

As the enormity of that decision sinks in, we are starting to work with partners to ensure our environmental legislation is strengthened in the years ahead.

November 04 2016 - 13:20

Above: Poppies at Plantlife's Ranscombe Farm Reserve in Kent.

Trevor’s speech at the State of Nature launch kicked off some good conversations on the future of farming - particularly his heartfelt description of  the gradual decline of the wildlife on his dad’s farm in Hampshire.

While this decline is undeniable, there is clearly a better way and we need to head clearly along this path post-Brexit.

A key problem is that most public funding goes to farmers in their role as landowners, leaving too little to reverse the wildlife declines most taxpayers want from the countryside. This needs to be about how we can develop a more sensible approach to what we want from the countryside. Two conversations this week have helped me understand the challenges and the way ahead...

The first was when chatting to some farmer friends about what they saw as the future of farming. Their story was telling – they were in Stewardship previously but couldn’t afford to maintain the field margins and other wildlife features once their scheme expired, so ploughed these short-lived habitats back into the ground. Instead, they now carry out more modest efforts (including a glorious species-rich meadow in the garden) and ‘do their bit’ wherever possible, but otherwise are focused on the important and commercial job of producing good-quality food. They are good at this and happy to ‘go it alone’, and while undoubtedly enjoying the benefit of their public subsidy for the acres they own, recognise that public money is better spent where wildlife can be properly nurtured.

The second discussion happened whilst showing The Woodland Trust around our Ranscombe Farm Reserve, which is in Stewardship. Here we work hand-in-glove with the tenant farmer delivering both food and exceptional wildlife. This is only possible with the right advice and targeted intervention, but the results were clear to see.

My conclusions? We should focus our public money on delivering those public benefits that come from proper stewardship of the countryside and to do this means a tough discussion on where best to focus our efforts so we rebuild wildlife for all our benefits.”

But what do you think? Write and let us know your views.

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