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Jan 11, 2017

Two conferences about farming underway in Oxford this week

Wildlife Trust says: Government must recognise environmental benefits of managing land.


The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) warns there is a real danger that the opportunity to reform the funding of our farming system could be squandered, if the Government doesn’t take an integrated approach to farming and the countryside.


The Oxford Farming Conference and the Oxford Real Farming Conference are taking place alongside each other in the city this week, and the Wildlife Trust attended both.


Tom Beckett, Director of Public Affairs for BBOWT, said: “The Government is currently preparing two 25 year plans, one for Food and Farming and one for the Natural Environment. Defra’s key targets: supporting the rural economy and improving the natural environment are laudable aims; but unless an integrated approach is taken to both we run the risk of having two systems fighting against each other, and the Government will fail on both counts.”


A major topic of discussion at both conferences was the implications for farming of leaving the European Union including a debate specifically about how leaving the Common Agricultural Policy provides an opportunity to reform the way farming and the natural environment are supported.


Tom Beckett commented: “Everyone agrees that the system within the EU isn’t perfect, and it’s clear there are opportunities to improve the way farming protects the natural environment. With 60% of our key species in decline, the Wildlife Trust is calling for a new approach.


“We need a single plan for the countryside that protects our Natural Capital. This would recognise the value of managing land for public goods such as wildlife, flood relief or the storage of carbon in soils, as well as producing food. The Government should be supporting farmers by linking subsidy to the provision of public goods, instead of just paying landowners for simply owning and farming land.”