Farms 'will go bust' without green support, group warns

A new report gives a stark warning that farms will go bust if policy doesn’t help better balance food production with nature
A new report gives a stark warning that farms will go bust if policy doesn’t help better balance food production with nature

Farming businesses are at risk of going bust if the government does not balance food production with the environment, a farmers' group has warned.

A new report has analysed 43 farm businesses, concluding that farm profitability is 'inextricably linked' to its partnership with nature.

Launched by the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), it says green-focused agricultural practices will ensure 'financial viability' for farmers post-Brexit.

The report finds that when farms reach a point where outputs, such as food produce, require additional inputs, like fertilisers and medicines, farmers will 'degrade' natural assets, leading to a falling profits.

It concludes that farms obtain maximum returns by moving away from a 'high productivity farming system', to a balance of farming with natural assets and management of the countryside.

The government has already confirmed that the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will replace existing EU schemes.

It will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating habitats.

Moving away from a system that pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed, the scheme will instead pay for ‘public goods’.

But the NFFN is calling for this transition to be secured in the long-term, and not for it to be 'undermined' by additional Agriculture Bill clauses on food production.

The landmark post-Brexit legislation is set to return to the Commons to be debated for a final time before becoming law.

A number of amendments have been voted on in the House of Lords, including limiting the amount of pesticides, key standards to be enshrined in law and linking agricultural use to climate change.

The NFFN believes that the Bill should help farmers produce food and, at the same time, boost the environment and biodiversity.

It is also urging government to ensure high environmental standards are enshrined in the bill, so farmers are not undercut by low-quality, cheap imports.

Martin Lines, NFFN Chair, said the survival of all farming businesses in the UK 'depended on a healthy environment'.

"This report demonstrates that unless farming policy raises environmental standards and helps farmers transition to nature friendly approaches, future food security and the industry are at risk.

“With the development of post-Brexit polices in motion, governments must deliver long-term solutions now so that farmers can build sustainable and resilient farm businesses," he said.