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Securing a green and pleasant future for farming

The River Thames in West Berkshire The River Thames in West Berkshire

I’ve been walking sections of the Thames Path National Trail on and off for the last few months, and now have just a third of the path left, from Oxford to the source. The path takes you from the heavy industry of Charlton to the beautiful Oxford Green Belt and through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And one thing you’re never far away from, once out into London’s Green Belt and beyond, is farms.

Agriculture is at the heart of what makes walks like this enjoyable – rural England being a product of historic interactions between places, people and other living things. With very little unadulterated wilderness remaining, it’s vital that we support our farmers in managing the countryside we love. To be frank, we haven’t been doing this very well in the last 70 years, and we’ve been particularly bad under the Common Agricultural Policy.

Regardless of the progress of negotiations to leave the EU, we need to have a future agricultural policy in place that funds farming practices that are good for the landscapes, flora and fauna we all value.

It’s crucial that future funding be on the basis of ‘public money for public goods’, with environmental protection and improvement the ‘pre-eminent public good’.

Future policy must contribute to a beautiful, living English countryside, enjoyed by everyone through benefits like improved public access and enhanced landscapes. CPRE are co-signatories of a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the forthcoming Agriculture Bill to do exactly that. The letter garnered support from 54 other organisations working on the environment, food, farming and public health, demonstrating the importance of these decisions for the future of our country.

CPRE also believes it is in the public interest for future funding to encourage the production of high quality produce from a diverse farming system, with measures that take into account the needs of smaller farms.

We estimate over 100,000 farms were lost from 1950-1980, with a further fifth of the remaining farms in England lost between 2005 and 2015. These trends have been disproportionately due to the decline in farms below 200ha, and the growth in average farm size and more intensive management have been major factors in the decline of hedgerows, meadows and ponds.

The landscapes of the Thames Valley are beautiful in their own right, worth visiting and enjoying as they are today, and worthy of the protections many of them receive. However, this beauty masks hundreds of small tragedies: the loss of farms and landscape features that make England so varied and locally distinctive.

That’s why we’d like to see landscape included in the Bill as a key public good, backed up by specific measures to enhance the character and resilience of the countryside.

The Agriculture Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to halt and reverse the decline in farm and landscape diversity that damages rural communities and our enjoyment of the countryside as a whole.

We’ll be working hard over coming weeks and months with partners at Greener UK, Wildlife & Countryside Link and Sustain to ensure that the future of the farmed landscapes is secured in an ambitious Bill that delivers stability and security for farmers, while enhancing the beauty of the English countryside.

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10 September 2018

The Agriculture Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to halt and reverse the decline in farm and landscape diversity that damages rural communities and our enjoyment of the countryside as a whole.




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