The UK's post-Brexit farming scheme should be open to all farmers and must reward them fairly for improving landscapes, the NFU says.
The Landscape and Access Report, published on Wednesday (14 October), sets out how producers should be paid for maintaining and boosting the environment.
The government's new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will replace the European Union's subsidy system.
NFU's report says every farmer has a contribution to make, but the scheme must be 'simple to access' with 'fair rewards'.
The report showcases the role farming plays in maintaining the nation’s iconic landscapes and sets out how future policy needs to enable farmers to continue this.
It reveals that the public have rights of access on more than 225,000km of public rights of way in England and Wales, which is the equivalent distance of 15 trips to Australia.
And farmers maintain more than 411,000km of hedgerows in England and Wales, enough to wrap around the earth’s equator more than 10 times.
NFU President Minette Batters said rewarding farmers for this work not only made economic sense, but it also ensured those with expertise stayed on the land.
"Our working landscapes will continue to change but the one constant is those farmers managing and shaping this land," she added.
“Features such as hedges, trees, cattle grazing fields and crops being harvested all contribute to the wonderfully varied landscapes we see today.
"They are all a direct result of farmers’ dual role as food producers and custodians of our countryside."
Mrs Batters said the UK was at a 'pivotal time' for the future of farming and the countryside, adding that with the right policies, more could be done for the environment.
"We do need policies that work together to support the delivery of agriculture’s net zero ambition and to ensure we have a farmed environment that can both feed the nation and thrive with wildlife.”
What does the report ask?
The five key policy asks in NFU's report are:
• Future ELMs must be open and accessible to all farmers, simple to access, with fair reward for maintaining and improving landscape features and access.
• Where landscape scale impact is desirable, government must ensure projects are developed and led by farmers to harness their local knowledge of what works.
• To help deliver agriculture’s net zero aspiration, incentives should be offered for the conservation of carbon resources as well as their enhancement. The report says this can be achieved through the provision of bigger hedgerows, more woodland and especially carbon rich soils.
• The NFU calls on protected landscape bodies to actively recognise and enable the thriving, viable farm businesses that manage the landscape.
• The development of a modern and adaptable public access network that meets the needs of users and farm businesses.