Small-scale ecological farmers call for doubling of agriculture budget

The current agricultural budget is too small to deliver nature-friendly farming ambitions, the petition says
The current agricultural budget is too small to deliver nature-friendly farming ambitions, the petition says

Thousands of small-scale farmers have launched a new petition today demanding the UK government to double its agriculture budget.

The Landworkers' Alliance (LWA), a union representing 2,400 small-scale ecological farmers, says the government is failing to do enough to support the industry.

It says a transition to a nature-friendly farming system is 'now beyond dispute', but further government support is needed to 'ensure the security of farming livelihoods'.

Modelling by the NFU estimates that £4 billion a year is needed to support an agricultural policy that supports productivity, the environment and the economic stability of farms.

Similarly, research by RSPB, the National Trusts and the Wildlife Trusts revealed that £4.4 billion a year is needed to invest in nature-friendly farming to meet legally binding commitments

A bigger budget, backed by political will, can ensure that nature, farmers and the UK food supply are all protected, the LWA says.

The extra budget would be spent on higher payments for the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), as well as advice, mentoring and support networks for farmers.

Capital grants for a transition to environmental farming and organic conversion payments are also needed, the union says.

The petition will run until September, with the LWA hoping that it will reach enough signatures to be debated in parliament before the general election.

Jyoti Fernandes, smallholder farmer from Dorset and head of policy at the alliance, warned that there would be 'no food if we don’t sort out the ecological crisis'.

"There will be no food if farmers can’t earn a living growing food and restoring the land," he added.

"We need a green transition, so farmers can work with dignity as they change the way they farm. So many farmers are already pioneering nature-friendly farming methods but they too are being left behind.

"It’s time for the UK government to take food and farming seriously and double the agriculture budget to support a green transition in farming that doesn’t leave farmers behind.”

James Rebanks, cattle farmer from Cumbria and author of ‘The Shepherds Life’ and ‘English Pastoral’, said there needed to be greater investment in the food and farming system.

“It is within our grasp to make rural Britain all we need it to be. The financial cost is embarrassingly small - we just need the political will to make it happen.

"Whatever your politics, a bigger budget and more support for farmers makes perfect sense - it is investing in our own landscapes and food systems for the sake of all of us.”

If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures it will receive a response from the government, and if it reaches 100,000 signatures the issue will be debated in parliament.