This article was originally published in January 2020.
As UK agriculture faces major funding changes, one important resource should not be overlooked in developing sustainable farming systems
Those who remember farming in the decades after the second world war, especially the 1970s, will know that the emphasis was very much on production. Arable farmers were encouraged and even incentivised to utilise every hectare (or acre, as it was then) of their land for production. Hedges and trees were often removed to increase the productive area. Over the years, with changes in farm support, those farmers have been encouraged to create field margins linked to support payments, but trees have still not been in focus. Farm woodland, where it still remains, is often undermanaged, acting as cover for game birds or shelter for the farmhouse.
Looking forward, the new farm support systems will be based on producing public benefit in all its forms. Farmers will need to create plans for their total holding, showing clearly the public benefits they will bring in terms of food production, environmental enhancement and other social outcomes. The need to look at integrated approaches to land management to produce such public benefit – and also to respond to climate change – will highlight the value of trees.