Farming: Sheep sector plays a big biodiversity role

The ‘silo thinking’ favoured by policymakers which ignores the complex interconnectedness of the UK’s sheep sector threatens to undervalue the industry’s important role in maintaining biodiversity levels.

Speaking at the National Sheep Association’s (NSA) Sheep 2022 event at the Three Counties showground the organisation’s chief executive Phil Stocker, said taking land out of production for rewilding was not the way forward:

“We still hear that ‘less productive land’ should become ‘habitat land’, without recognising that habitat for butterflies, birds and much more comes from the farming system, not from land set aside for nature.”

He said that failing to recognise the multifunctional role of farming, including that farming covered food production, nature and climate could adversely affect the landscape, ecology, rural communities and culture forever.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the event the remarks were aimed at politicians and policy makers who were drawing up future support plans to reward sustainable farming systems.

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Turning to the farming section of the audience, he said that it was easy for those outside the industry to forget that most sheep farms were small and medium sized businesses that didn’t have the luxury of compliance officers, animal welfare officers, general managers or interns to pass work on to:

“Most people do all this themselves and, while NSA does what it can to support members, not least through events like today, I would like to take this opportunity to recognise what you all do, day in day out. I believe the opportunities ahead outweigh the challenges and there is a positive future for those willing to grasp it.”

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