AN INTERNATIONAL environmental group is calling on the next government to prevent the loss of funding for farms in Thornbury and Yate, which could cost millions of pounds.
Analysis by Friends of the Earth (FoE), a network of environmental organizations across 74 countries, has suggested that £6.9million, given to farmers to help protect nature and wildlife, could be lost if the next government fails to act.
The money, which is paid to farmers as part of the European-wide Common Agricultural Policy, is vital for both farmers and the environment in Thornbury and Yate according to the environmental group, going towards activities like restoring hedgerows, planting trees, reducing flooding and creating wildlife habitats.
Following Britain’s departure from the EU, the funding is set to come to an end after 2020, with FoE calling for the agreement of a replacement scheme, saying that 2ithout a new system to support farmers to manage their land sustainably, precious wildlife and habitats already under threat will suffer further.
Friends of the Earth food and farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: “This funding is vital for nature and for local farmers. It helps to reduce flooding, create wildlife habitats, plant trees and restore hedgerows - but all of this could be lost after the general election.”
“We’re asking all parliamentary candidates to commit to keeping and increasing this critical funding post-Brexit.”
Conservative candidate Luke Hall told the Gazette that he has regularly held meetings with farmers in the area, as well as National Farming Union (NFU) members and residents, most recently in April, resulting in a range of "constructive and productive discussions on the organisations thoughts on the opportunities and concerns around the Brexit negotiations ahead."
Supporting Theresa May, he said: "As someone who has worked on a farm during my younger years, I understand how vital our rural economy is to our community here in South Gloucestershire, which is why it is very important we have a strong and effective voice in parliament ensuring we get the best possible deal for our farming community in the coming negotiations."
Referencing the party's manifesto, Labour's Brian Mead said that the party would introduce new legislation – an EU Rights and Protections Bill – and this will ensure that all EU-derived laws, including environmental protections, are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses.
He added: "A Labour Government would fight to protect our agricultural and rural heritage and would explore ways to ensure that our farmers and environment can prosper in a post-Brexit Britain."
Lib Dem candidate Claire Young said: "Nobody knows what Brexit will look like. The choices Theresa May will make will affect your life and our country for decades.
"That's why we think you should have the final say on the Brexit deal - your choice, your future.
"This includes the funding that comes from the EU and the access we have to the single market.
"We need to make sure farmers can continue to produce food successfully and manage the environment, without being undercut by foreign imports, and that consumers don't see food prices rise.
"We will rebalance away from direct subsidy and refocus support towards the public goods that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production, and climate change mitigation."
Green Party candidate Iain Hamilton said: "The government needs some help when it comes to planning the future of farming post-Brexit.
"When asked what research Defra has commissioned in the last six months to inform the development of agricultural and environmental policy, the answer was ... none!"
The absence of any plan for our food and farming sectors is setting the cow bells ringing, especially given the extreme form of Brexit that Theresa May's government is pushing for."
He added that if no deal is done, farmers face only selling in the UK unless they are happy to pay the increased tariffs that will be imposed for much of the dairy industry.
He said: "This is yet another example of why we should have a second referendum on the proposed deal.
"Yes we voted to leave the EU but will people support a deal that will cut farming subsidies by £6.9m? That is just in Thornbury and Yate."
The Gazette is awaiting comment from the NFU.