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The Agriculture Bill: Rewilding Britain’s recommendations for government

This week, the Government’s new Agriculture Bill will get its second reading in the House of Lords. Here’s how we are influencing the Lords ahead of the reading.

 © Dark Moon Pictures / Shutterstock

Published 08/06/2020

Back in January, we published our views on the new Agriculture Bill — a once in a generation chance to ensure thriving and resilient nature lies at the heart of our farming systems. The Bill enables farmers to be rewarded for breathing life back into our countryside whilst creating a resilient food system which can cope with shocks into the future. Healthy soils, abundant pollinators, thriving ecosystems and landscapes that can absorb water and carbon must underpin this resilience. We therefore strongly support the public money for public goods’ approach outlined in the Bill.

The second reading of the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords is scheduled for Wednesday, June 10. Ahead of this, Rewilding Britain has sent a letter and briefing to selected Lords setting out four key priorities on how the Bill can empower farmers to restore nature on every scale. This includes an ask to encourage the specific inclusion of rewilding at scale as an option for landowners in the future Environmental Land Management scheme.

Our four key priorities are:

  • Stick to the fundamental principle of public money for public goods”. Public money paid to farmers must provide essential public goods’ or benefits — like wildlife, soil health, water and air quality, natural flood management and public access – that aren’t already rewarded by the market. Food production, paid for through the market, is therefore outside the remit of public goods and rewarding farmers for food production would undermine the fundamental principle of the Bill.
  • Ensure that there is a well-resourced transition to the new arrangements. The stepped transition set out in the Bill must be matched with advice and support to help farmers, so establishment of a trusted expert network of advisors will be pivotal to the success of the roll-out of the proposed ELM scheme.
  • Ensure we maintain high trade standards in law. Our farmers must not be undercut by cheap, damaging imports. Importing food which would be illegal to produce here would limit the capacity of UK farmers to deliver vital public goods such as healthy soils, reduced flood risk and climate change mitigation. Include rewilding as an option in future Environmental Land Management.
  • Rewilding is growing rapidly in popularity amongst landowners and is here to stay. Rewilding delivers multiple public goods at scale efficiently and effectively and it enables landowners and rural communities to diversify their income in areas where farming alone is no longer viable. To be effective, the future Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme must include all the right tools in the toolbox and rewilding is the best Swiss Army Knife around!

We’ve also sent Lords our paper summarising the rationale behind this proposal, which includes some interesting case examples of where and why landowners are already embracing rewilding at scale. We’re thrilled that some Lords have already engaged with us ahead of Wednesday’s second briefing, with comments including:

Thank you for sending this through, it will be incredibly helpful in the days ahead.”

Many thanks for this. It pretty much accords with my own views. I have put my name down to speak.”

Many thanks for this email and attachment which are very helpful.”

We’ll continue to push the UK Government and devolved administrations to work together to ensure that taxpayers’ money is used to reward the vital role farmers can, and many already do, play protecting wildlife, improving soil, water and air quality, helping flood management and encouraging public access to the British countryside.

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