16 January 2020
The revised Agriculture Bill was published on Thursday and we were delighted to see soil formally recognised as a public good alongside a commitment to support land management practices with soil health at their heart. It was described by Defra as "one of the most important environmental reforms for many years." We have taken the opportunity to remind government that the commitment to sustainably managed soils by 2030 is now 10 years old and we will need ambitious strategy with clear milestones for delivery to meet the target. Read our full statement here.
Baroness Jones, meanwhile, reminded the government that 80% of our environmental legislation is provided by EU Directives, and asked why commitments to non-regression of environmental standards post-Brexit have been actively removed from the Withdrawal Act.
With all the discussion around reform of agriculture and the transition to agroecology, we thought it worth highlighting again this report on the economics of soil regeneration in Europe, published at the end of 2019 by System IQ and Soil Capital. In summary, “The argument…is that farmers can improve the profitability and resilience of their business during a well-managed transition to regenerative agriculture, based on experience in Belgium & Finland, and modelling transitions in France & Spain” and “Healthy soils with increased carbon content and biological activity are more resilient to drought, flood and pest pressure.”
The Nature Conservancy estimates that the United States loses 996 million metric tonnes of soil through erosion per year - with mainstream agriculture’s environmental and societal cost at $85bn/year - while the FAO puts the global figure at an estimated 24bn tonnes lost. Green Business considers the transformation of agriculture as a win-win for farmers, food companies and the environment, and advises “Shifting to regenerative agriculture requires a fundamental shift in the goals of our agriculture system, from one focused exclusively on maximizing yield and efficiency to one that pursues economic and social outcomes alongside productivity.
A Yorkshire sheep farmer has been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to study the beneficial impacts of livestock on soil health on arable farms. He says, “I believe, contrary to what we read in popular titles, that animals are the key to unlocking a food production system that regenerates the environment.”