Greater action required for UK farming, warns Nature Friendly Farming Network

Farming needs to urgently scale and pace the adoption of nature-based solutions for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss or face an uncertain future, warns the Nature Friendly Farming Network. The new Rethink Farming report presents evidence that farming with nature can restore natural assets and improve resilience to a warming world.

Ahead of COP26, the Rethink Farming report presents research with evidence from 18 case studies revealing how farmer-led innovation and nature-based solutions can positively impact farm businesses.

The report highlights practical on-farm action for restoring the natural environment so farming can weather the worst of increasing climate shocks. It argues how continued deterioration will continue to impact the livelihoods of farmers if the sector doesn’t transition to regenerative practices.

The report concludes how farming with nature can maximise returns, offer viability in changing markets, increase profitability through reduced inputs and ensure a more adaptable landscape.

After the launch of the Net Zero Strategy, the NFFN is calling for greater ambition from the Government in elevating the key role farming plays in delivery for net-zero and calls for greater action across farm holdings to prevent irreversible outcomes if the trajectory of climate change continues.

Martin Lines, chair, Nature Friendly Farming Network, says: “It’s in farmers’ best interests to start acting on climate change and nature recovery, so we are in a good place for maximising opportunities for funding for public goods, and further down the line, to capitalise on returns from private markets.

“We know that farming is contributing to ecological disruption. And the science is clear – we have 10 years to avoid the worst effects of the climate emergency. Simple solutions can have the greatest impacts in preparing farming for what’s to come.

“We have a moral obligation to act on this after decades of intensification have contributed to the challenges we face. It’s not just farmers, it’s everyone. What are we waiting for?”

The report also includes research of 726 of their public and farmer members, revealing overwhelming concern about how climate change and biodiversity loss will affect UK farmers. Public support calls for the sector to do more to address these twin challenges.

  • Over nine in ten farmers (92%) are concerned about the effects of climate change on their business, with eight in 10 concerned about biodiversity loss.
  • Nearly all (97%) of farmers think consumers need to be better educated about the value of natural assets on farms, including how successful management of natural capital is a public benefit.
  • Over nine in ten think food labels should clearly identify production measures.
  • Three quarters (71%) do not think the industry is currently equipped to deal with the challenges of climate and nature loss, at the same time as sustainably producing food.
  • Over nine in ten people (98%) want farming to do more to address climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • Over eight in ten farmers (88%) think the sector needs to be better encouraged to enter environmental schemes.

The research also reveals over eight in ten people (86%) want to support farmers who are creating wildlife habitats and restoring soil health. Six in ten want to support carbon storage (61%), improved water quality (64%) and high-welfare farming (66%). Over nine in ten (96%) want to see public money support farmers who are implementing restorative measures covering soil health, biodiversity, carbon-storing and water quality. Nearly all (96%) want environmental standards that mitigate climate and restore nature to be enshrined in law.

The report calls for mandatory labelling for both domestically produced and imported food, with a robust and transparent labelling regime that promotes traceability and encourages the adoption of climate-friendly farming through consumer-led incentive.

Other key recommendations to UK Government include preventing the import of commodities linked to deforestation or conversion of carbon-rich ecosystems and a review of existing policies with a focus on developing sustainable food systems and shortening supply chains.

The report is endorsed by leading environmental organisations including the Soil Association, Plantlife, Woodland Trust, RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Woodland Trust and more. Sustain, Farm Wildlife and the James Hutton Institute have also contributed to the report with supporting statements.

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