Farmers union called UK environmental targets ‘irrational’ and ‘unachievable’ | Agriculture
The National Farmers Union (NFU) raised questions about the government’s proposed targets for water pollution, tree planting and rebuilding, calling them “irrational” and “unachievable”, according to published documents. Today by the Department of the Environment.
The lobbying group, which represents powerful voices in the agricultural sector, raised doubts about the legally binding proposal. Objectives of the Environmental Law, which were subsequently weakened by the government.
Under the 2021 Environment Law, the government was required to set legally binding targets for nature restoration and environmental improvements. They began consulting on those targets in March 2022, recommending, for example, an increase in tree and forest cover from 14.5% to 17.5% of the total land area in England by 2050. water pollution were initially set for 2037.
But after the consultation ended, the goals were published for some disappointment. The tree cover target had been lowered to 16.5%, while the water pollution target had been pushed back to 2038.
Consultation papers released today show that while the NFU claims it has ambitions to “improve our environment, care for our countryside and work towards our commitment to reach net zero by 2040”, with a target of net zero 10 years before the government, his private response was highly critical of proposals to meet climate targets and improve the environment.
He expressed concern about proposals to reduce nutrient pollution from animal waste and fertilizer, calling them “irrational.” He told the government: “Generally speaking, we consider the level of ambition in nutrient targets to be unachievable, inconsistent and unreasonable. The NFU and its members are committed to building on past successes and further reducing nutrient losses to the environment from agriculture. However, this effort must be balanced against the need to produce food, fiber and energy on farms, thus protecting the rural economy and maintaining food security.”
The union also said it disagreed with targets to reverse species extinctions, and in particular spoke out against the reintroduction of lost species. It read: “The NFU has long advocated that we should support species that are already present before looking to introduce new species. So instead we think we should aim to prevent species loss, as a tailored targeting approach for rare and threatened species could be beneficial in driving action to reduce biodiversity loss.”
The lobby group argued that the concept of rebuilding itself was damaging the countryside, warning against “taking an approach that risks undermining the social fabric of rural communities. reconstructionfor example, it ignores the fact that our iconic agricultural landscapes are valued by many who make 4 billion visits to the British countryside every year.”
Finally, he said that the tree planting target of 17.5% was too ambitious: “An increase in tree and forest cover from 14.5% to 17.5% is equivalent to 415,000 hectares of tree cover by 2050, approximately 15,000 hectares of trees per year. This is extremely ambitious, if not unachievable.” The government later watered down this target to 16.5%.
Nature groups have said the union is “misled and dangerous” and is “holding back progress towards a greener future” after its lobbying against nature restoration policies was revealed.
Rob Percival, director of food policy at the Land Association, said: “The NFU’s attitude towards environmental goals is defeatist, misleading and dangerous. There is a clear scientific rationale for regenerating forests and increasing tree cover, but the NFU believes it is too difficult. Our rivers are choking with excess nutrients, mainly due to the proliferation of intensive farming systems, but the NFU has dismissed pollution reduction targets as “irrational”. Instead, they propose more of the same: more poultry, more pollution.
“It is strange and unfortunate that the NFU shows such a lack of imagination, when the stakes are so high. Solving the climate and nature crises will involve difficult trade-offs in land use and a sea change in the way we eat and farm. With the right policies in place, farmers and producers can be paid to lead change. By taking such an obstructionist stance, the NFU is letting its members down, failing the public and stunting progress towards a greener future.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “We have full confidence in our Environment Act targets, which were established through intensive consultation with companies, land managers and environmental organisations. Meeting these goals will require a shared effort across government, business and individual decisions we all make, and through the Environmental Law we have ensured a strong legal framework to hold current and future governments to account, protecting nature for generations. to come.”
The NFU has been contacted for comment.