A FARMER from Malham has joined with around 100 others across the country to call for a more sustainable and nature-friendly industry after Britain leaves the European Union.

Neil Heseltine is part of the new Nature Friendly Farming Network, which is calling on the UK to create a post-Brexit framework that will help farmers restore British wildlife, reverse declines in soil quality and help manage the impacts of climate change - as well as growing affordable, healthy food.

The group is calling on the British Government to help the country's transition to a 'nature-friendly' farming policy after it leaves the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

Neil, who was born and brought up on Hill Top Farm, re-introduced 20 Belted Galloway cattle to join the Swaledale sheep flock as part of a conservation grazing scheme in 2003.

He now farms at Hill Top with his partner Leigh.

Neil said: "Agriculture has impacted on natural wildlife populations over the last 30-40 years, and not in a good way. I would like to do something to reverse this.

"Farming used to be a part of nature – or even a product of nature. We were working with nature to produce food. In recent years this has changed. We are now working against nature to produce more, or grow things at unnatural times of year. This has put the farming industry in a worse position.

"We have chosen to focus on the natural and sustainable farming route on our farm. For us it is not only a more profitable way of farming, but also more sustainable, from an environmental and economic point of view."

The Nature Friendly Farming Network members called for a new vision for British farming at the Real Farming Conference in Oxford on January 5.

And Neil said that he believed the biggest post-Brexit threat to farming in this country was a reduction in payments - and this could mean some farmers going out of business.

He said: "Some politicians are making the right noises, but I’m not sure they are as committed to the environment as the EU. And without the French and German governments standing up for farmers, the UK government may not take as much notice of the sector.

"Together we can show government that there are farmers that support nature-friendly farming which can have a positive impact on agriculture, wildlife, nature conservation and landscape.

"There is currently a misconception that you have to be either or – you are either a commercial farmer or a nature friendly farmer. My belief is that to be a successful commercial farmer you need to go down a nature-friendly route. It’s not just a binary choice, the two are inextricably linked.

"Brexit is an opportunity for the farming industry to take a different direction. It may also lead to big changes in the industry, giving young people an opportunity to get into farming. These farmers might have a broader outlook towards nature."