Campaigners have produced a five-step plan designed to create a more sustainable farming system in light of Brexit.
Pesticide Action Network – UK warned it was vital existing regulations tied in with EU laws were not weakened.
The charity said that while the task of unravelling the package of EU directives was ‘fraught with risks’ it also ‘presents a unique opportunity to shape UK agriculture for a generation to come’.
It has called on the government to develop a ‘robust, sustainable pesticide regulatory system that ensures the most hazardous pesticides are taken out of use’. The overall goal should be significantly reduce the use of all pesticide throughout UK agriculture.
‘It’s true that Brexit presents risks, but it also presents opportunities,’ said policy officer Nick Mole. ‘We now have the chance to reform the Common Agricultural Policy subsidy regime so that funding reaches those farmers who need it and who work for the environment, and not just straight into the pockets of the big landowners.’
Five steps towards a more sustainable farming system:
1. Use subsidies to promote greener agricultural practices, support farmers and protect our countryside
The UK should move away from a system of flat rate acreage subsidy to one that supports practices that enhance biodiversity. Growing a wider variety of food, with more mixed agriculture, wider crop rotation and lower field size will create more resilient and sustainable farming systems better able to cope with and help tackle climate change. There need not be a conflict between productivity and sustainability.
2. Establish strong regulatory controls on pesticides including targets and incentives to cut pesticide use
It is possible to cut pesticide use while maintaining yields and profits, but farmers need help and incentives to do so. The UK should introduce a national target to cut pesticide use, ban the most highly hazardous pesticides and promote less harmful and non-chemical methods of managing pests, diseases and weeds.
3. Support farmers wanting to adopt more environmentally friendly practices – including organic – with training and practical research
Invest in research to develop and improve sustainable farming approaches and provide training and advice to those who want help to adopt them.
4. Support diverse, family and small-scale farms
Target subsidies to support a thriving and diverse farming sector by giving small and medium scale farmers – not just big agribusiness – a greater share of the subsidies and help them to access markets. This will encourage young people to stay in the industry and reverse the exodus from the sector.
5. Support the organic sector to grow
Organic farmers in the UK receive much less support than their continental peers and as a result organic farming only accounts for about 2% of UK production, compared to as much as 10% in some European countries. The new system should provide more support to help farmers convert to organic and drive market demand for organic products.
Photo by aqua.mech