Working with farmers and recognising their key food production role must form an integral part of the newly created Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), the NFU said today, and not be seen as an obstacle.12 NIAs have now been announced by the Government and include Marlborough Downs – a farmer led partnership. They were one of the key recommendations emerging from last year’s Natural Environment White Paper and replace the ’Ecological Restoration Zones’ first proposed by professor Sir John Lawton in his Making Space for Nature report. The farmer led NIA on the Marlborough Downs represents a challenge both for the farmers’ there to deliver and for government to recognise that farmers needs have to be considered in these schemes from the outset.Local partnerships will plan and deliver improvements for wildlife and people through the sustainable use of natural resources and restoring and creating wildlife habitats in the 12 NIA areas.NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: "The NFU has long argued that one of the biggest challenges facing farmers will be their part in meeting the expected global demands to produce more food but impact less on the environment. It’s now important that these new partnerships engage directly with the individual farmers and landowners in the dedicated areas. "In addition, we expect Defra and its agencies to maintain the balance of activity in these NIAs between wildlife and habitats and other equally important challenges such as water quality, soil conservation and climate change mitigation and the need for farmers to manage their businesses. We need to prioritise wider countryside measures, rather than simply focus our resources in smaller areas of the country."