Environmental groups call on Senedd to beef up new agriculture bill
Leading charities are urging the Senedd to strengthen the new Agriculture (Wales) Bill which is being debated on Tuesday, “to save nature”.
Wales Environment Link (WEL), a network of over 30 groups which work together to protect the natural world, has tabled a list of four key recommendations prior to Tuesday’s Stage 1 debate.
Karen Whitfield, Co-Director WEL said: “The current draft is heading in the right direction but we feel that some areas of the Bill need strengthening.
“We would like clearer alignment with current Welsh legislation, such as the Environment Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act; adoption of the United Nations definition of land management; and reflect biodiversity restoration and resilience as outlined in the new Global Biodiversity Framework.
“We would also like to see an integration of the role that farmers and local communities can play to protect and maintain our local environment, diversifying and developing new opportunities for local food production and improved public access to support a healthier lifestyle and a circular economy.
“This will be the first made-in-Wales Agriculture Bill, and it is crucial that the Bill is fit for current and future generations. This is a once-in-a-life time opportunity to significantly change our approach to agriculture, so we can save nature and support communities.”
The recommendation put forward by the WEL are:
- Streamlining objectives: Redrafting Part 1, sections 1-3 of the Bill to ensure that the sustainable land management objectives are delivered together, with no single objective being allowed to be prioritised or ignored.
- Setting a robust baseline for standards: Inclusion of a duty to set National Minimum Standards in time for the launch of the Sustainable Farming Scheme, to ensure the Scheme has a robust regulatory baseline in place that guides eligibility for payments.
- Ensuring a smooth transition: Inclusion of a sunset clause for the Basic Payment Scheme within the Bill, to ensure that payments that are not linked to the sustainable land management objectives of the Bill cannot continue indefinitely.
- Highlighting the importance of nature: Clearer references to the importance of restoring biodiversity, improving public access to the countryside and conserving Wales’ landscapes.
Arfon Williams for RSPB Cymru said: “It’s clear that poorly conceived agricultural policies have led to the intensification of farming, providing less and less habitats for native wildlife in Wales.
“In our lifetimes, we’ve lost almost half our farmland birds, mammals, amphibians, insects and invertebrates, along with more than 90% of enclosed flower-rich grasslands.
“The Welsh Agriculture Bill is our best – and probably last – opportunity to help farmers across Wales to turn this catastrophic loss of nature around. Including ‘restoring biodiversity’ as an objective of the Bill will be vital if we are to have a nature-rich Wales once more.”
Alexander Phillips from WWF Cymru added: “We are living in a global nature and climate crisis and the Agriculture Bill is a vital part of Wales’s response. If we don’t get this Bill right, we risk the continued loss of nature and will be unable to achieve our Net Zero ambitions.
“Over the last decade, Welsh agricultural emissions have risen, and the sector continues to be one of the primary drivers of nature loss.
“In the wake of the landmark COP15 agreement to halt & reverse global nature loss, Welsh Government must not let this opportunity to create a resilient farming system which works for people, nature and climate slip through its fingers.
“It’s critical that Welsh Government act on the recommendations of the Senedd’s (ETRA) Committee and the environmental sector to ensure that biodiversity restoration is an objective for future Welsh farming support.
“Wales must transition towards a nature friendly, regenerative, agroecological, system of food production.”
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