Agricultural White Paper Launched

Wednesday 16th December 2020

Welsh Government have today published a White Paper on agriculture in Wales, which in turn will lead to an Agriculture (Wales) Bill to be introduced in the next Senedd term.

The Wildlife Trusts in Wales welcome the publication and support the aims and objectives, of Welsh Governments Agriculture (Wales) White Paper. We agree that this scheme should reward farmers appropriately for the production of environmental outcomes, such as improved biodiversity and wildlife-friendly, sustainable farming methods. This will help create improved soils, clean air, clean water, as well as actions to reduce the carbon footprint of farming and to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

We look forward to working with the Welsh Government and other stakeholders to turn this ambition into reality.

In particular, the areas we think are essential include

  • having specific measures to increase biodiversity on and around farms and wider habitat and ecosystem restoration, including measures to enhance endangered species
  • agroecological and regenerative farming practices to increase levels of carbon sequestration through land management, (including woodland creation and management such as natural regeneration, the introduction of agro-forestry, the restoration of peat bog functionality, salt marsh restoration and increasing levels of soil organic matter in improved agricultural land).
  • reducing the reliance on artificial fertilisers, pesticides including fully embedding Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM) and making sure any veterinary medicines are used effectively and are safe for our environment.
  • the National Minimum Standards and other measures to tackle agricultural pollution

Rewarding farmers, and other land managers, for achieving these public goals through the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme would help create a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector in Wales for future generations. This would help Wales achieve the global target of having 30% of land and sea managed for nature by 2030.

The scheme will transition Wales to a new era of truly sustainable agriculture that enables the recovery of nature, helps society to adapt to climate change and produces local high quality and nutritious, sustainable food.

However, we need to accelerate the timeframe for the transition to this scheme. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) highlighted the need for urgent action. It recognised that intensive agriculture and agricultural pollution are major drivers of habitat deterioration and species loss. It stated that one million species could be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for people and the economy. This view is echoed in a Natural Resources Wales report and the 2016 and 2019 State of Nature Report. The State of Nature Report concluded that Wales is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries. So its time to bring our countryside to life again.

We have missed our commitments to halt the loss of nature by 2000, 2010 and now 2020. It is likely that a new target to halt the loss of nature by 2030 will be agreed at the UN Biodiversity Conference next year. So we cannot afford to wait another 5 or 7 years for this scheme to start or take effect. Therefore, we would like to see new agricultural pollution regulations and National Minimum Standards brought in sooner. We need to accelerate the ambitions of this White Paper and start creating new wildlife habitats and nature-based solutions. This will kickstart natures recovery and help alleviate the impacts of climate change.

Rachel Sharp, CEO, Wildlife Trusts Wales stated
“We agree that Wales needs to support farmers to produce local, sustainable food. But farmers also hold the key to restoring nature in Wales, as they manage over 70% of the land. Understanding that land managed for nature also helps society adapt to the impacts of climate change through carbon storage and flood elevation has to be recognised and rewarded. We also need to be honest of the risks not just to nature from some current farming practices but to human health as well. If we are to invest public money into land management, then we need society to benefit. Farming needs to change, and there are many farmers in Wales who champion this new way of farming. But there is no time to lose, we must transition to this new future at pace and at scale, for both people and nature”.

James Byrne, Living Landscapes Manager, Wildlife Trusts Wales stated
“a recent report by the Farming, Food and Countryside Commission, ‘Farming Smarter’ explores the economic argument for regenerative farming and confirms that there is no need for a trade-off between profit and nature in an agroecological system. The Sustainable Farming Scheme has the potential to create sustainable, deliver a range of ecological and social benefits and help farmers produce nutrient-dense food and improve farm profitability.”
 

 

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