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Senedd urged to include nature restoration in new Agriculture Bill

07 May 2023 4 minute read
Regenerative farmer Hywel Morgan with his highland cattle. Photo David Bebber/ WWF-UK

Martin Shipton

Welsh environmental organisations and farmers have written an open letter to Senedd Members making a heartfelt last appeal to save Welsh nature by including nature restoration in the Agriculture (Wales) Bill, which will be voted through the Senedd this month.

As nearly 90% of Welsh land is farmed, the letter explains it is crucial that the Bill is strengthened to protect and restore nature to prevent the extinction of many of our much-loved species.

WWF Cymru has handed in a petition to the Welsh Government signed by more than 3000 people across Wales calling for an Agriculture Bill which will restore nature.

At the Senedd event, farmers and environmental organisations from across Wales appealed to MSs to advance the current “maintain and enhance” language used in the Bill, which in itself is not seen as sufficient to prevent the continued loss of Welsh wildlife, with a clear objective to “restore nature”. This change would, says WWF, begin to bring Wales in line with the current global standard following COP15.

Since the 1970s, 73 species in Wales have become extinct, making us one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The number of butterflies in Wales has declined by over 50% since 1976.

One in six species are at risk of extinction in Wales and none of our natural ecosystems are resilient enough to face threats. Unsustainable farming, the overuse of pesticides, fertilisers and agricultural pollution, have contributed to the degraded state of our natural habitats at land and sea and we are now in a nature crisis, argues WWF.

Wales is home to some of the most spectacular species on Earth – from puffins to plovers, bees, hedgehogs, barn owls, butterflies and bats – but, says WWF, we are pushing nature to the brink.

Unsustainable agricultural management

Last December at COP15 global commitments were made which highlighted we have just seven years left to halt and reverse the loss of our natural world. Unsustainable agricultural management is seen as a primary driver of nature loss. Therefore, argues WWF, the Agriculture Bill is Wales’ biggest opportunity to address nature loss and achieve the targets set out in the COP15 global biodiversity framework.

Karen Whitfield, co-director of Wales Environment Link, said: “We are calling on Senedd Members to table an amendment ensuring the Bill reflects the Welsh Government’s commitment at COP15 to accelerate nature recovery in Wales. In its current form, the Bill does not match the ambition or vision of the ’30 by 30’ target or tackle the climate and nature emergencies the Senedd declared in 2019. This Bill is our opportunity to use all the levers at our disposal to create a more resilient, globally responsible, healthier Wales.”

WWF Cymru’s Shea Buckland-Jones said: “Time is ticking for Welsh nature. As things stand, this month the Senedd will pass an Agriculture Bill that does not deliver for nature. This will have disastrous consequences not only for our spectacular wildlife which is an integral part of our land, heritage, and culture – but for the people of Wales as the natural world is our life support system.”

“Nature in Wales is already in crisis. Without urgent action salmon are expected to be gone from Welsh rivers in less than a decade. Iconic species such as hedgehogs and horseshoe bats will become a distant memory. If we are to have any chance of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030, we need immediate action from the Senedd. This is our last chance to ensure a strong Wales Agriculture Bill which will support farmers, restore Welsh nature and build a better future for all of Wales.”

Crucial

In the joint open letter to Senedd Members, Welsh environmental organisations and farmers stated: “Strengthening the Agriculture Bill is a crucial opportunity to ensure we halt the rapid decline of our natural world and prevent further extinctions of Welsh species in the years to come.

“Nature protects our health, looks after our wellbeing, and is a vital ally in the fight against climate change, providing clean water, clean air, and nutritious food to everyone in our communities. Without nature, we would not have the resources to produce food or have our strong Welsh agricultural heritage. Without nature, we risk losing the vital role agriculture plays in sustaining our rural economy and communities. Without nature, we can’t ensure health and wellbeing for our future generations.”

Parties will consider how to respond to the pleas before the Bill is voted on.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago

Odd that nature restoration should feature in agri related legislation when there are no such obligations vested in any of the rules relating to the planting of large scale wind turbine estates across large patches of Welsh countryside. There is no doubt that agri can do more to protect and promote nature in many ways but this serves to expose once again the narrow minded, myopic attitudes of many lobbyists and law makers who see nothing wrong with the equivalent of open cast mining that goes on to prepare ground for turbines and the consequent lack of proper control of… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Loopholes one can drive a D9 Bulldozer through…the use of the word has grown as the building of fortified structures has declined…a tool of the unscrupulous and rarely accidental…

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
9 months ago

Strange that my comment slating supermarkets for being the driving force behind pushing farmers down the intensive production route and the EU for creating a false and unsustainable market around agriculture would be removed?

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