The Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) is calling for the Government's Agriculture Bill to set ambitious minimum standards in protecting the environment.

A spokesman for NFFN said it would prevent a minority of farmers from ignoring the environmental impact of their enterprise.

On the first anniversary of the NFFN’s official launch, the 2,050-strong farmer-led network will once again congregate at the Oxford Real Farming Conference.

The NFFN will call for the Government to establish an independent regulator that:

  • Sets clear minimum standards to safeguard, maintain and enhance animal welfare, the farming landscape and the agricultural industry.
  • Improves sustainability across the industry and reverses the declines in natural resources and ecosystems, which have been an unintended consequence of previous regulatory regimes.
  • Publishes a report every five years on progress towards meeting government priorities and targets and progressively raises standards.

The organisation proposes that targets - including air quality, water quality and soil health - should be set to act as an incentive to make British agriculture a world exemplar of sustainable and nature-friendly farming.

Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “It is the Secretary of State’s duty to establish an independent regulator before it’s too late.

We can only guarantee long-term food security by protecting and managing the natural assets which enable food production.

"If the Government does not amend the Bill to include minimum standards - and put a stop to the environmental degradation caused by intensive farming - British farmers will be in danger of losing their livelihoods.”

'Making the business and environmental case'

Michael Clarke, the organisation's Scotland chairman, added: “We understand that altering farming practices can seem like a daunting challenge to many farmers, especially in Scotland where the Scottish Government has confirmed a significant cut, with more possibly to come, in the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme.

“That’s why the NFFN has to champion the business and environmental case and share best practice to drive the shift in farming we need to see. But the Scottish Government will need to introduce a system of support that incentives and works for Scottish farming businesses, as they face the prospect of swingeing cuts in other sources of support.”

NFFN is supported by a range of environmental and conservation charities including Soil Association, National Trust, Woodland Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife and Plantlife.