Response to Agricultural Command Paper

Thursday 1st March 2018

Making changes to benefit wildlife and farm businessVaried plant species benefit wildlife and farm livestock

Our wildlife is in crisis with only a tiny proportion of our previous abundance of wildflowers, birds and sea-life now remaining. We can turn this around and lead the world in nature’s recovery but only with true government leadership.

Yesterday, the Government launched a 10-week consultation on the vision for agriculture and land management in England called Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit. This consultation – or Command Paper – will inform the Government’s forthcoming Agriculture Bill. What follows is an initial response from The Wildlife Trusts:

The Wildlife Trusts’ CEO Stephanie Hilborne says:

“This Agriculture Command Paper must be the first step towards a new era in which we restore our environment for the benefit of future generations through a Nature Recovery Network. We therefore welcome the clear vision for the future of farming in the UK and the proposals to pay farmers and land managers for managing their land in a way that is of value to the public, not least by providing space for wildlife. However, this is not a done deal. It is vital that people who care about wildlife respond to this consultation in the next 10 weeks if we are to secure this step forward for wildlife. It may seem a strange thing to do in an evening – to find a government website and respond to a consultation on farming – but the stakes for wildlife have never been higher. And a healthy, wildlife-rich natural world is not only valuable in its own right, it is also at the core of our wellbeing and prosperity.”

Senior Policy Officer at The Wildlife Trusts, Ellie Brodie says:

“Farmers can sell the food they grow through the market. However, they can’t sell a whole range of services that society needs them to provide, whether it’s reducing the risk of floods downstream, creating habitat for bees or improving the health of our soils. The Wildlife Trusts believe that this is the most important thing that farmers should be paid for. We need to make sure that the right amount of money is invested by the Government in our farmed environment. We would need to spend £2.3bn just to meet existing government commitments for the environment. Even more will be needed to meet the more ambitious goals we hope the government will commit to as part of an Environment Act in 2019.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ CEO Stephanie Hilborne also highlighted one key risk:

“The Government must also be very careful about the side-effects of the planned sweeping changes to the system. Whilst it is entirely logical to remove direct payments to landowners, these currently depend upon the landowner managing field boundaries and hedges positively for the environment. If the payments go overnight, so will this ‘cross-compliance.’ A new and better mechanism needs to be in place before these payments are pulled.”

Cornwall is 80% farmland, so this must be managed in a way which provides shelter, food and nesting sites for wildlife. Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with several hundred farmers across seven project areas, to support business decisions which boost food production as well as protecting wildlife.

Farming practices can however, help protect species and habitats and this is where Cornwall Wildlife Trust works with farmers to offer advice and funding. For example, a farmer near Helston has boosted wildlife in his silage fields by sowing thirteen different species of grasses, wildflowers and herbs. The flowering plants attract pollinators like hoverflies, which in turn support farmland birds and bats. This change also benefits the farm as the new species have deeper roots, which anchor the soil in place and stop it from washing into the stream. Additionally, some of the plants have medicinal properties for livestock, like birds-foot-trefoil which helps fight parasites.

Pete Warman, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Project Manager for Upstream Thinking said “In our experience, farmers understand the need to manage the land sustainably to protect natural resources for future generations. Our support is well received because we focus on solutions which protect the environment and make good business sense for farms.”


The Wildlife Trust Editor’s Notes:

For more background, see our blog Government launches ‘green Brexit’ consultation on future for food, farming and the environment.

There is broad agreement that whilst it carries risks, leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) gives us a rare chance to improve an outdated system. For The Wildlife Trusts, it provides a chance to reverse the fortunes of wildlife and the natural assets (the soil, water and habitats) which post-war agricultural policy has depleted and which farming relies on.
The Wildlife Trusts have been working closely with farmers and we are also one of the UK’s biggest land managers, with around 100,000 hectares of land in our stewardship. We manage more than 20 farms and work with thousands of farmers every year, giving advice on managing land for wildlife. Like others who care about the natural world, we want to grasp this opportunity to give our wildlife the step up it so badly needs in the farmed environment.

The Wildlife Trusts’ vision (for more, read “What Next for Farming? A future policy for land in England: investing in our natural assets.”) is to restore habitats and join them up, often by linking together farmers and targeting investment to where there is most need. We propose three public asset funds for land management, based on delivering the eight benefits. We propose a landscape-scale approach to land management because wildlife and wild places do not recognise boundaries and we need more space for wildlife by growing and joining habitats. These funds should be allocated through local environment plans that target action and investment to achieve nature’s recovery. This approach is based on ecological mapping – a spatial approach to identifying environmental needs through using local data and consultation with local people. In response to our campaigning, the Government has now committed in its 25 year plan to a Nature Recovery Network – this is the most vital part of the picture. A Nature Recovery Network should protect, link and create areas of habitat which help wildlife move and spread out.

A new contract – between land managers, the Government, taxpayers and consumers – could secure the future of not just wildlife but also of farming communities, a thriving and diverse economy, and a living landscape delivering the ecosystem services that we rely on.

Pete Warman
Upstream Thinking Project Manager
Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01872 302277
Mob: 07938 985419
Photographs (all credits to Cornwall Wildlife Trust)
Making changes which benefit farm business
Varied plant species in silage fields which benefit wildlife
Cornwall Wildlife Trust works with hundreds of farmers

Cornwall Wildlife Trust Editor’s Notes:
The government consultation closes on 8 May 2018 and can be viewed here

To download Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s 2016 – 2021 Strategic Plan please visit

Cornwall Wildlife Trust continues to work with farmers and to benefit soil, water, and wildlife. For more information visit

Cornwall Wildlife Trust
• Cornwall Wildlife Trust has been protecting Cornwall’s wildlife, both on land and in our seas since 1962.
• It is the county’s leading wildlife conservation charity, with over 17,000 members which includes over 4,500 junior members and 160 Business Supporters.
• Cornwall Wildlife Trust has Local and Specialist Groups based around the county. All play an important role in the Trust’s work and are always looking for more volunteers.
• The charity manages 57 nature reserves all over the county, including a range of habitats such as woodlands, meadows, wetlands and heaths.
• The Trust runs a number of marine and terrestrial based conservation projects in partnership with others – these include Upstream Thinking, Penwith Landscapes Partnership and Your Shore Beach Rangers.
• The Trust hosts the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (ERCCIS).
• The Trust relies on charitable donations, grants and the generous support of its members and the general public to raise more than £2.2 million every year. Money raised is spent on wildlife conservation and education in Cornwall, for present and future generations.
• The Chief Executive sits on the board of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Local Natural Partnership who launched Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy in 2016
• The Trust is one of 47 in the UK. Together, they make up The Wildlife Trusts
• Cornwall Wildlife Trust also runs Cornwall Environmental Consultants Ltd – a consultancy business providing professional ecological, landscape and tree advice and consultancy services to developers, utility companies, landowners and farmers.
• To find out more about Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s work, events and news visit
• Press contacts at the Trust: Chris Betty (01872) 302235

South West Water
• South West Water provides water and sewerage services to over 1.6 million people across Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset and Dorset.
• South West Water maintains 9,221km of public sewers (enough to stretch from England to China) and 15,042km of water mains (enough to stretch from Exeter to Australia).
• South West Water supplies over 350 million litres of water to its customers every day.


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