This year’s drought has brought farmers into conflict with wildlife NGOs.
In an interview with Channel 4 earlier this month to discuss the issues farmers are facing, NFU deputy president Tom Bradhsaw called for food production to be “prioritised alongside environmental protection. At the moment the risk of harm to the environment will trump food production every day and yet it’s absolutely crucial we produce the country’s food,” he added.
Bradshaw also accused the government of not listening and urged it to make sure “water is prioritised for food production not just environmental protection”.
His comments have prompted the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Angling Trust and Wildlife and Countryside Link to accuse the union of being “out of step with the public mood”. In a joint statement to Ends Report, the NGOs said: “Now is not the time to further the false choice of ‘food or nature’ – we can and must have both.”
The NGOs said the union “fails to recognise the long-term threat faced by farming from climate change and biodiversity loss” and should look to the “thousands of farmers [that] are taking steps to make their businesses more resilient to climate change”.
Bradshaw in turn called on the government to “make our food resilience a priority”.
The crisis facing the UK’s food sector is set to be one of the many priorities for the incoming prime minister. Food prices are driving up the cost of living, for example. The Guardian this week reported that any change of policy on food is likely to focus on trade and farm policy. Campaigners therefore fear that Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak could renege on reforms that pay farmers to preserve soils, protect nature and nurture wildlife.