Consumers think farmers are central to tackling climate change and boosting nature but many do not think the industry is doing enough.
Results from a YouGov survey of 2,140 British consumers showed 92 per cent wanted farmers to take action, but 54 per cent believe the UK farming sector has made either no improvement or has had a more negative impact on climate change.
Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL), which commissioned the survey, used the findings to call on Government to help the sector invest in wildlife and carbon friendly farming practices.
Speaking on the first day of the Oxford Real Farming Conference (January 8), WCL chief executive Richard Benwell said: “Farm emissions are part of the problem, but farms are also part of the solution. Better land management is the key to locking up carbon.
"Nine out of ten members of the public want farmers to play their part. So, Government must put the policies in place to help farmers become net zero heroes.
"That means guaranteeing long-term funding for public goods beyond this Parliament. It also means a clear roadmap for agricultural transition, starting in 2021 and ending in 2028 with a system that will be generous in its support for environmental public goods, so that farmers can plan now for a net zero carbon future.”
Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “We urgently transition to a farming system that produces sustainable food, reduces emissions, restores habitats and sequesters carbon, farmer livelihoods and future food production will be threatened, and the impacts of climate change will escalate.
"Farmers are key to addressing climate crisis and wildlife decline - but urgent government support is needed to take nature friendly farming to scale.”
Helen Chesshire, chairwoman of the Wildlife and Countryside Agriculture Group and senior farming adviser at Woodland Trust, added: “Farmers are the guardians of our countryside and as such are uniquely placed to make changes that can help turn our climate and nature crises around.
"If the Government truly want to be environmental world leaders, they must make the most of the once in a lifetime opportunity the Agriculture Bill and post-Brexit policy presents to fix our broken farming system and make it sustainable.”
It follows WCL’s research with 500 farmers last year which showed environmental action within the farming sector was being restricted, despite 80 per cent of farmers believing the health of the natural environment was important or very important for their farm business.
A third of farmers reported taking no environmental action to deal with problems on their farms, with 44 per cent undertaking one or two environmental activities, and only one in five undertaking three or more.
Farmers said the main reasons for inaction on environmental and other improvements are a lack of access to capital and uncertainty caused by Brexit.