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Farmers lobby MPs for legislation that puts nature at the heart of farming policy

PUBLISHED: 13:26 08 November 2018

Farmers from the Nature Friendly Farming Network gathered in Westminster PICTURE: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Farmers from the Nature Friendly Farming Network gathered in Westminster PICTURE: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

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Members of the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) protested outside Parliament last week to demand that the Government prioritises nature friendly farming in the forthcoming Agriculture Bill.

Cambridgeshire farmer Martin Lines is chair of the Nature Friendly Farming NetworkCambridgeshire farmer Martin Lines is chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network

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.

Cambridgeshire farmer Martin Lines, who is 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.”

READ MORE: Hopes Agriculture Bill will herald a new age of nature friendly farming

The farmer-led NFFN wants the Bill to set basic standards for sustainable land management; make sure that productivity is underpinned by sustainability to ensure long-term food security; and reward farmers financially for delivering environmental benefits.

Martin Lines' welly boot with a barn owl painted onMartin Lines' welly boot with a barn owl painted on

UK wildlife is declining at alarming rates - according to Defra the number of farm birds has dropped by 54% since 1970, while the farmland butterfly index has fallen by 27% since 1990. Many factors have resulted in these declines but changes in agricultural practices have been a major driver.

READ MORE: Chris Packham talks of uniting conservation with farming on trip to East Anglia

The farmers travelling to Westminster wore specially designed wellies that featured the species or ecology that each farmer protects on their land - Mr Lines had a barn owl on his.

He added:: “Wildlife declines, soil degradation and climate change threaten our landscape’s productivity and farmer livelihoods.

“Many farmers are working to reverse this trend, but Government must embed nature friendly farming in policy. We need a long-term, sustainable management framework to deliver real food security.”

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