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Hundreds of British farmers have attacked government plans to slash key environmental support schemes designed to replace EU subsidies after Brexit.

They warn any roll back of the agricultural policies which have been in development for six years risk food security in Britain, with the “fragile food system at a critical turning point”.

Before her resignation, Liz Truss’s government had announced it will strip back the planned Environmental Land Management scheme (Elms), which would have paid farmers to return some areas of land to nature to help boost biodiversity and tackle the climate crisis.

But more than 300 farmers have contacted their MPs demanding the full rollout of the scheme, accusing the government of a “reckless attitude towards our finances and our futures”.

They said they believe Ms Truss and her cabinet “see environmental stewardship at odds with her dash for growth”.

In a joint letter to 148 Conservative MPs before her resignation was announced, coordinated by The Nature Friendly Farming Network, farmers say that this is a “false trade-off”.

Ms Truss’s review of Elms last week drew the criticism of senior Tory figures including Michael Gove and William Hague, as well as the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), whose director Sam Hall described the scheme as being “critical for both food security and farm profitability”.

Martin Lines, UK chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “Farmers urgently need a clear vision for the future and the right policies and political will to get us there – we need Elms to work for all farms of every size and system.

“There is already much evidence showing how nature-friendly farming provides greater profitability, resilience and the foundations to build sustainable enterprises. When we farm this way, our businesses go from strength to strength.

“Our rural environments are improved to the benefit of local communities. It’s time the government stood by its commitment in 2019 and joined the solutions to achieving a multifunctional landscape that produces food, recovers biodiversity and delivers ambitious climate action.”

Gareth Morgan, the Soil Association’s head of farming and land-use policy said the Elms “is an important component in the transformation needed in farming”.

He said: “Farmers know that healthy soils and a thriving natural environment are good for business; they help create resilient, reliable and productive farms.

“The Soil Association fully supports the call to retain ELMS and is asking for urgent clarity from Defra on the future of the scheme.”

In a new report, the Nature Friendly Farming Network, argues that if the government wants to prioritise food security, then nature and climate-based reforms are of critical importance.

The “Rethink Food” report highlights how the war in Ukraine, the Covid pandemic, and Brexit-related labour shortages have exposed the fragilities in the farming industry.

“In order to build a truly resilient and productive sector, farmers must be encouraged to work with nature, rather than against it,” the network said.

But despite the review announced by Ms Truss’s administration, the government has denied it is rolling back the protections. It is not known whether the review will go ahead under Ms Truss’s successor as prime minister.

“Claims we intend to go back on our commitment to the environment are simply not right,” a Defra spokesperson said.

“A strong environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. We have legislated through the Environment Act and will continue to improve our regulations and wildlife laws in line with our ambitious vision.

“We want every corner of our country to prosper too. Bureaucratic processes in the planning system do not necessarily protect the environment so, by making sure we have the right regulations for our nation, we can make this happen.”

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