Crunch time for the countryside: ask your MP to support farming with nature

Chris Gomersall 2020VisionWe need to find a space for nature in our farmland landscapes (photo: Chris Gomersall 2020Vision)

Please email or write to your MP, asking them to ensure the Government makes the right choices about new farming policies and spending public money on providing public benefits. Please act today!

The Government is considering how it will spend around £ billions every year to implement the reformed Common Agricultural Policy in England.  It will soon announce important choices about the extent of its support for farmers who do most for the environment and will decide whether and how it will ensure that all farmers play their part and work with nature.

A healthy natural environment underpins sustainable farming systems.  Farmland covers 69% of the land area of England, so it is vitally important that the public money available to English farmers through Common Agricultural Policy payments helps to improve the farmed environment, making life better for wildlife, sustaining food production and supporting farmers.

The Wildlife Trusts submitted a written response to the Government’s formal consultation on CAP in England, which closed on 28 November.  We are now urging our members, supporters and the farmers and landowners we work with to ask their local MPs to ensure the Government to make the right choices.  The government will announce their decision on Thursday 19 December - so it's not too late to have your say!

What you can do - ask your MP to support Farming with Nature

Find out who your local MP is here.

1) Email or write to your MP and ask them to support farming for nature.  Local and personal contact works best.  A template letter is provided below. 

or Tweet your MP

"INSERT MP TWITTER ADDRESS pls support #farmingwithnature. 15% transfer & a greening scheme for England to help farmland nature http://wtru.st/CAPmsg"

Find your MP's Twitter account here.

 

Big Decision 1 – support for farm environment schemes

Farmers have made significant commitments to delivering farm environment schemes in the last 25 years.  These schemes are restoring and connecting important habitats and bringing species back from the brink.  They help to protect rivers and streams from pollution and protect habitats that store carbon.  But budget cuts agreed in Europe mean these schemes are under threat.  The Government wants to put things right and move the maximum amount allowed by Europe (15%) from the budget which supports direct payments to farmers, into the rural development pot (so-called ‘modulation’) which funds these schemes.  Not everyone agrees and the Government could change its mind. 

We want the Government to stick to its commitment to protect the rural development budget which supports farm environment schemes by making this 15% funding transfer.

Once it has agreed its amount for the rural development budget the Government will choose whether to allocate an amount between 78-88% of the rural development budget to farm environment schemes. 

We want to see the maximum amount possible allocated to environment schemes, providing more space for nature and supporting healthy farmland ecosystems.

Big Decision 2 – effective actions for the environment on all farms

As well as building on current successes and keeping the farm environment schemes going, more needs to be done in the areas that will not be eligible for such schemes.  At best, future environment schemes are likely to cover 35-40% of the country, so other ways must be found to raise environmental standards across the whole of the farmed landscape.   

The Government can choose whether or not to improve upon the standard ‘greening’ measures proposed by the EU that farmers will undertake in return for 30% of the direct payments they receive.  For example Government could focus on measures that could do more to protect remaining flower-rich grasslands or link habitats strategically across the landscape.  The best way for the Government to deliver the 'greening' measures would be via a special greening scheme for England.

We believe that some of the standard EU greening measures could be made to work much better for farmers and the environment in England, and that we should start to make those improvements now with a view to developing them over the next few years.  Effective ‘greening’ will enable the money spent on the more targeted environmental schemes to go further, enabling our precious wildlife-rich grasslands to be conserved and remaining fragmented habitats to be linked across landscapes to benefit wildlife like bees, and other pollinating insects, and the farming systems that depend on them.

Message for your MP

Please help us put across these views by contacting your MP using the template letter provided below (and attached as a Word document). We know that MPs respond best to letters or emails that are personalised and localised - please consider editing your message to do this. Thank you!

Dear

The Government will soon be making important choices on the future of farming in England, as it decides how to implement the reformed Common Agricultural Policy.  I am therefore writing to you now to seek your support for a better future for farming, the environment and rural communities at this critical time.

Farmers have made significant commitments to delivering environment schemes in the last 25 years.  Across the country agri-environment schemes are bringing species back from the brink by restoring and connecting important habitats.  They have brought almost half of the country’s remaining hedgerows into good management and have created new homes for bees and other insects.  They are also helping to protect rivers and streams from pollution and protecting habitats that store carbon.

I believe it is vital that farmers continue to be rewarded for delivering these important schemes and that funding is allocated to them accordingly.  As they are likely to cover 35-40% of the country at best, it is also important that more is done to raise environmental standards across the whole of the farmed landscape.  

I would be interested in your views and to know whether you will ask Prime Minister David Cameron to make the following key choices:

• To support Minister Owen Paterson's stated commitment to move the full amount allowed by Europe into the rural development budget for England (referred to as 15% modulation) and to prioritise support for farm environment schemes in this budget; 

• To introduce a more flexible national ‘greening’ scheme for England.  This will ensure that the measures proposed by the EU (that farmers will undertake in return for 30% of the direct farm payments they receive), work better for farmers and the environment.  For example by focusing on measures that could do more to protect remaining flower-rich grasslands and link habitats across the landscape.

I want the Government to support the most environmentally-friendly farmers so that they can keep up the good work they are doing, but also wish to see more farmers playing their part by working with nature on their farms.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Afterwards - we'd love to know if you've contacted your MP about this.  Please drop us an email to let us know enquiry@wildlifetrusts.org or tweet us @wildlifetrusts #farmingwithnature.

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