Putting nature at the heart of plans for farming and for water

Tuesday 15th September 2015

Environment sector sets out visions for farming and for water in two influential publications

Voluntary organisations have come together to produce ambitious visions for England’s farmland and the country’s water. Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) – a coalition of 46 voluntary organisations – has produced two significant publications. Farming fit for the Future and Water Matters put restoration of the natural environment at the heart of plans for the future management of farmland, rivers, lakes and wetlands in England.

Link’s Director, Dr Elaine King, said:  “Farming and water are so closely linked.  We therefore want the Government to take an integrated approach to ensuring that our land and water can provide us with life’s essentials: healthy food, clean drinking water, protection from flooding, secure livelihoods and access to beautiful green and blue spaces with thriving nature.

“Specialists on water and agriculture, from across Link’s member organisations, have contributed their expertise to simultaneously create powerful visions for farming and our water, at a time when action needs to be taken to reverse the decline in our natural environment.”

The overarching themes addressed in Water Matters and Farming fit for the Future include pollution, climate change, long-term planning, and restoring wildlife and the countryside.  Together the publications call for:

  • Long-term planning for the natural environment to be embedded within farming and water policies and practice
  • The true value of the natural environment to be recognised so that resources such as water and soils are used wisely
  • A clear focus on public money – for example as distributed by the Common Agricultural Policy – being invested in ways that deliver public benefit – such as healthy soils, biodiversity, clean water, flood storage and thriving landscapes
  • Land and water to be protected from pollution through better enforcement of penalties, along with fair and effective regulation, so that businesses and the natural environment can thrive
  • Farmers, the water industry, the environment sector, and Government to respond appropriately to climate change, for example by increasing public awareness of the value of water and actively supporting farmers to significantly reduce total greenhouse gas emissions
  • Measures to maintain and rebuild water and farmland nature habitats so that they, and the wildlife that depend on them, are restored to full health

Acting Chair of Link’s Agriculture Working Group, Helen Perkins, said:  “These are challenging times for farmers and for nature. Farming fit for the Future sets out a vision that can deliver multiple benefits for farming communities and businesses, for our land and livestock, for nature and for the nation; in the immediate term and into the future.  We are issuing the vision as a starting point for discussion and look forward to increased dialogue with the Government and the farming industry and community over the coming year.”

Acting Chair of Link’s Blueprint for Water Group, Hannah Freeman, said: “Over the last 30 years our freshwater species have declined by 76%.  Despite such losses less than one per cent of the UK’s entire river length and only a small proportion of wetlands are formally protected.  Water Matters advocates us all working together to manage our water more sensitively, bringing sustainable benefits to the economy and a future full of wildlife rich places that everyone can explore and enjoy.”