Country Trust Amendment to the Agriculture Bill is tabled
The Country Trust is urging the government to ensure that the new Agriculture Bill includes provision for stand-alone payments for farmers who offer high quality farm education. Farms offer an amazing window onto all that the countryside has to offer, and through hands-on visits, children grow in confidence and understanding about this world, their world, that sustains us all.
Lord Curry tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords that would allow the Secretary of State for the Environment to financially support activities that increase “understanding, knowledge and skills relating to the environment, farming, food production, and the impact of climate change on agriculture;”
This recognises education as a public good in its own right, and ends the rather confusing situation we have now where access payments are linked to environmental measures or the conservation/landscape value of the farm meaning that many farmers can’t access them at all.
Without the support of farmers welcoming children on to their farms, for us it’s mission impossible and we know that for many farmers access payments make the difference and allow them to offer multiple visits. With one million children eligible for Free Schools Meals (a measure of disadvantage) we need an army of farmer hosts to step forward to ensure the relationship between farmers and our next generation grows.
Our CEO was able to ask the Farming Minister Victoria Prentis recently whether she supported the premise that farm education was a public good in its own right. She replied that she is very keen on education and that’s why it’s in the beginning of the Agriculture Bill in the most important clauses. She is very worried about how far we have got from the land as a society and hopes CV19 may have helped a little in making people think about where their food is from and what matters. The Minister reiterated that we must get children onto farms.
This is very encouraging but we think the distinction between access for enjoyment, and access that increases understanding, knowledge and skills needs to be made much clearer.
Our amendment is due to be debated in the House of Lords on 7th July before the Bill returns to the Commons and has the support of organisations such as LEAF, the Soil Association, Sustain and others as well as the backing of a good number of peers. We are conscious however that there is considerable pressure to push this Bill through without amendment.