NFU leaders defend environmental record and climate ambition

The NFU has said it wants the UK to be world leaders in climate-friendly farming, as senior figures launched a passionate defence of the union and its environmental record.

NFU environment forum chairman Richard Bramley and NFU president Minette Batters dismissed suggestions the union is anti-environment, and insisted food and nature will always co-exist as its top priority.

Speaking at a council meeting in Warwickshire on Tuesday (11 October), Mrs Batters said her “commitment is as strong as ever” to help farmers become part of the solution to the climate crisis.

See also: Minette Batters sets the record straight on ELM scheme

The NFU president said farmers needed to have confidence in the government’s Environmental Land Management scheme and its first strand, the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

“One of my main reasons for calling for a delay was the fact that some of our members had nothing to transition on to, upland farmers have no scheme,” Mrs Batters said.

“So, we absolutely need to be able to have a scheme in place that is detailed, well resourced – 65% of the budget as a bare minimum needs to be in SFI. It can be a land-based payment, but it needs to happen and it needs to happen now.”

She added: “In my nine years, the NFU has only ever talked about food and the environment. Every single bit of work we have done.

“We are going to talk more about food than farming because food resonates with everyone. And every time we talk about food, we are going to talk about the environment.”


Mr Bramley, who has been involved in the NFU’s environment forum since 2015, told the packed council meeting he was annoyed by “the wish to portray the NFU as somehow anti-environment”.

“This has largely been a misrepresentation. The NFU’s commitment to protecting, managing and enhancing our environment alongside food production is clear.”

Mr Bramley cited a major report produced by the NFU in 2018, United by our environment, our food, our future, which detailed the role farming has played in shaping Britain’s countryside.

“That has led to subsequent reports and resources for members all about enhancing this aspect of our work in the landscape.

“I would say as a farming organisation we have done a huge amount in promoting a thriving environment alongside our produce.

“At the same time, recognising that bad trade deals, lack of staff and supply chain issues all have a negative environmental impact.”