Farmers need ‘fair reward’ for maintaining our landscapes, says industry report
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The “extensive role” of farmers in maintaining and improving treasured landscapes has been outlined in an industry report – which also calls for “fair reward” from the government.
The Landscape and Access report, published by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), sets out the contributions of the farming industry and makes recommendations for how these public benefits could be supported by the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) currently being developed by Defra to replace the EU’s system of largely land-based subsidies, which is being phased out after Brexit.
It says farmland is the destination for 48pc of visits to the natural environment in England, totalling around 4.1 billion visits every year, while the public have access to more than 225,000km of public rights of way in England and Wales, and farmers maintain more than 411,000km of hedgerows – enough to wrap around the earth’s equator more than 10 times.
The report calls for ELMS to be accessible to all farmers, with “fair reward for maintaining and improving landscape features” and providing public access to the countryside such as via permissive footpaths or public engagement and education events.
READ MORE: Farming leaders criticise MPs’ ‘disappointing’ vote on imported food standardsIt also calls for the government to harness the local knowledge of farmers when developing landscape-scale projects, and to offer incentives for the conservation of carbon resources through the provision of larger hedgerows, more woodland and carbon-rich soils.
NFU East Anglia environment adviser Rob Wise said: “East Anglia is home to some of Britain’s most important landscapes from the Fens to heathlands, grazing marshes and patchworks of hedgerows and woodland across the region.
“Farmers have helped create these iconic vistas over centuries and play a crucial part in maintaining and managing them, including providing access for all.
“As this report highlights, we are at a pivotal time for the future of farming and the countryside. Farmers are already doing so much for the environment, but they are ambitious to go further. Farming can deliver even more landscape enhancement and access to the countryside, while continuing to feed the nation, if government delivers the right policies that recognise and reward this dual role.
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“The new Environmental Land Management scheme will be key. It needs to be accessible to all farmers, paying them for the work they do in maintaining and improving the countryside and tailoring different approaches to reflect different landscapes across the UK.”