Martin Lines | UK Chair, Nature Friendly Farming Network
As UK Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, I know the role of agriculture is changing.
With this change comes the responsibility that we, as land managers, have to deliver on more than just food production.
The post-war drive for intensification has brought an onslaught of negative consequences to the natural systems we rely on to make sustainable, nutritious food possible. Without fertile soils, healthy hedges, thriving biodiversity or clean water and air, our landscape is less resilient, our yields inconsistent and our foundations for farming are diminished.
As we face the realities of biodiversity loss, farmers across the UK are uniquely placed as delivery agents of an environmental agenda that can restore nature and mitigate climate change. Farming systems that will support a nature-rich future are markedly different from the mainstream of decades’ past: less intensive, more circular, more regenerative and nature at its heart.
For every crop sown or livestock reared, decisions need to be made to leave nature in a better condition than we found it. Providing safe spaces for diverse habitats to flourish on farmland is a priority that all farmers should see as synonymous with the notion of productivity. Without nature, we don’t have farming.
As farmers and land managers transition to meet the changing needs of society, where public benefit is in the restoration of our natural environment, farmers are challenged to deliver in a multitude of ways.
For this to be possible, we need the UK government to incentivise the value of biodiversity output as equal to business output with fair return for delivery. We need clear outcomes and priorities to inspire a long-term direction of travel, and without clear leadership outlining a pathway to nature’s recovery, this will be impossible on a wide scale.
There needs to be better transparency and clear, trustworthy labelling on food products, so consumers are empowered to identify farming methods that are delivering for biodiversity and climate and identify farming products that are delivering for biodiversity and climate.
Lastly, and perhaps the most challenging of all, is the mindset change necessary across the UK. Farmers have adapted to systems that degrade our natural capital and it is up to the government to instil, foster and grow ambition so that across all farms, regardless of size or scale, farmers are encouraged to work in partnership with nature.”