HRH Prince Charles essay is a message everyone should heed, says NSA

15th July 2021

The National Sheep Association (NSA) welcomes HRH Prince Charles’s essay on the 14th July 2021, emphasising the role that farmers can play in protecting the planet, and highlighting the connection between sustainable diets, food production, and the protection of natural resources and nature. Even though we believe sheep farming is firmly rooted into sustainable, regenerative, and multi-functional farming and land management the association accepts there is more all of us can and need to do. NSA believes future farming support schemes, in all UK nations, should be targeted towards creating resilient and sustainable farming businesses that are rewarded for good environmental and public goods delivery. The association also sees market trends continually moving in this direction, increasingly expecting, and sometimes rewarding farmers for going that extra mile.
With Secretary of State George Eustice’s recent comments: “… that meat should be produced to the very highest standards in a pasture-based system.”  still ringing in our ears, HRH’s words: “It has always seemed to me somewhat logical to embrace a farming system that works with nature and not against her,” underline the beliefs he put into practice for many years on his farm at Highgrove, and now being employed on the Sandringham estate. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive comments: “The essence of sheep farming in Britain is very much based on regenerative principles, and to a large extent works in harmony with nature - even though we may not have been using those words until recently. It is hard to argue that we could not and should not do more, but its not hard to argue that policies and farm support, and markets, should do more to incentivise and reward progressing at scale in this direction. We need to see more mechanisms that reward people for doing the right thing, and we need more transparent debate about what the right things are, but without alienating anyone. People will be absolutely central to making and supporting change.”
In the essay broadcast on BBC Radio 4, HRH stated: “Farming can play a big part in protecting the planet. From field to fork, extraordinary work is being done to try and build a better food system for everyone.” NSA agrees that great work is being done within the sheep industry to further improve an essentially grass-based system that is producing high quality food and fibre, while replenishing the soil and sequestering carbon.
Mr Stocker concludes: “The diversity of sheep breeds in the UK, many with incredibly close associations with particular landscapes and climates, contribute to a spectacular countryside enjoyed by many, and this ‘natural capital’ is the envy of many around the world. We have made progress over recent years in getting diversity recognised as a virtue rather than an inhibitor of efficiency but we have a long way to go to get this recognised adequately.  It also remains a mystery why we appear to be risking pulling the rug from underneath our farmers by agreeing trade deals that look set to undermine the high quality and high values that we say we aspire to.”

The broadcast is available to watch here.

BBC Radio 4 broadcast the essay
BBC Radio 4 broadcast the essay