Farmers play ‘irreplaceable’ role in protecting UK’s natural environment

“Welsh farmers play an irreplaceable role in looking after our cherished environment,” NFU Cymru president John Davies told delegates at an event during Wales Nature Week.

The NFU Cymru Sustainable Agriculture: Food, Farming and the Environment conference, took place on Friday (June 6) at Pentre Farm, Merthyr Cynog, Brecon to showcase Welsh farmers’ crucial role in producing high-quality food whilst protecting, maintaining and enhancing the farmed environment.

Policymakers, representatives of non-governmental organisations and academics were in attendance.

The event also coincided with the release of a new NFU Cymru report with the same name, examining the key areas where farmers can, and do, play an essential role in tackling challenges such as landscape, biodiversity, soil, water and air and climate.

The report features case studies of NFU Cymru members who highlight how their own farming practices are maintaining and enhancing the nation’s vital natural assets in collaboration with producing high-quality, affordable food to world-leading standards.

Opening the event, NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “There is an inherent connectivity between agriculture, our environment, our landscapes, our communities, our culture and our heritage with many inter-dependencies.

“In Wales, I believe we have the legislative framework and ways of working to recognise this connectivity.

In the context of Brexit, we have to move forward to develop and deliver a truly sustainable vision for Welsh agriculture that goes beyond seeking to balance or compromise a number of seemingly competing objectives.

“[Instead, we need] to develop a vision that embraces equally the environment, economic, social and cultural aspects of sustainability.

“We must start a new conversation about our farmed environment. On our family farm, I have a genuine ambition to leave our farm in a better state for my children and the generations that come after them.

“I am clear there is more we can all do. I am also clear this has to be done on the basis of evidence, on the development of a shared understanding, and through collaboration and working in genuine partnership.

[We need to] develop an approach that recognises and respects that Welsh farmers have unique knowledge and perspective on the farmed environment and also a special contribution to make in its ongoing management and enhancement.

The on-farm event included addresses from Natural Resources Wales interim chairman Sir. David Henshaw and Brecon and Radnorshire AM Kirsty Williams.

Farmers whose work for the environment was highlighted at the event included dairy and arable farmer William Lawrence, livestock farmer Alex Higgs; beef, sheep and poultry farmer Harri Parri; and potato grower Walter Simon.

Lawrence explained how he has more than two miles of public footpaths on his land in Pembrokeshire. He continually fences off habitats to aid and benefit the wildlife and the ground-nesting birds along the coast while Higgs spoke about how she has worked to increase biodiversity on her land.