A new national food strategy, published on Monday, is being heralded as a change of tune for Boris Johnson’s government. Since he became Prime Minister in 2019, he and his Defra Ministers have pursued what’s been referred to as a “green agenda” - with a post-Brexit farming payments scheme that would encourage farmers to turn fields into wetlands and wildflower meadows, through the landscape recovery fund.
However the new “grow for Britain” strategy signals a change of government policy, returning to farming for its traditional reason: to grow food. The landscape recovery scheme fund has been cut down from a proposed £800 million over three years, to just £50 million over the same time frame.
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation welcomes this change of direction from policy makers. In so many cases, farming and gamekeeping work hand in hand, and the health of farms and the health of nature are closely related. While the pro-rewilding agenda was framed as being a boon for wildlife and conservation, the shooting sector has seen some fantastic positive conservation stories in recent years, and many of the management techniques practised by gamekeepers are hugely beneficial to a host of wildlife and plant life.
In some cases, “rewilding” projects negatively impact on threatened red and amber listed species which were already thriving, often through the help of gamekeepers.
The government has stated that they “remain committed to cutting carbon emissions, boosting green tech and protecting nature and biodiversity”.
We believe that this change of policy should not be seen as pitting farming against conservation, but rather as a sensible rebalancing of priorities in response to the cost of living crisis.