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  1. ITV Report

The future of farming: Calls for farmers to meet minimum environmental standards

East Anglia is often referred to as the nation's 'breadbasket' with its soil, landscape and climate suited to growing wheat, barley and other combinable crops.

Now farmers in the region and across the UK are calling on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove to protect this land by amending the Agriculture Bill.

The Nature Friendly Farming Network, one of the fastest growing farming groups in the UK, want to it be a legal obligation for all farmers to meet minimum environmental standards, such as soil and water quality.

  • Click to watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Graham Stothard

This week, the organisation congregated at the Oxford Real Farming Conference to urge Michael Gove to include minimum standards in farming policy or face threatening long-term food security.

The NFFN want to see an independent regulator introduced who will set clear minimum standards to safeguard, maintain and enhance animal welfare, the farming landscape and the agricultural industry.

The NFFN lobbied government before to make meeting certain environmental standards a legal requirement. Credit: ITV

According to figures from RSPB, there has been a 54% drop in farmland birds since 1970 and the United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme found a 36% drop in farmland butterflies since 1990.

Martin Lines is a farmer using more eco-friendly techniques. Credit: ITV Anglia

Cambridgeshire farmer Martin Lines is UK Chair of the organisation. His family have been farming in St Neots since 1936, but in the past 15 years he has started using more eco-friendly techniques to encourage more wildlife and to improve the farm's natural eco-systems.

He told ITV Anglia he wants to see more sustainability in farming to protect the industry for generations to come:

"If we continue to intensely farm our soils to death as we seem to be doing at the moment- we've seen huge decreases in soil health- actually, we're wrecking our future opportunities for sustainable food production for future generations."

– Martin Lines, NFFN UK Chair
The NFFN want to safeguard animal welfare. Credit: ITV Anglia