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10 February 2023

Defra has released the latest Farmer Opinion Tracker from October 2022. The tracker shows concern amongst farmers about the impact of changes to regulations and the agricultural support schemes such as the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) for the future of farming. 68% of respondents said they were not at all confident that changes would lead to a successful future for farming. 

The reliance by the government on farmers to restore nature through sustainable management will bring superficial change according to Dr Elise Wach. Dr Wach has highlighted that the Environmental Improvement Plan has clear ambitions, but is vague on how sustainable management will be implemented. Current instruments to achieve sustainable management focus on standalone actions like cover crops as the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) does, rather than integrated strategies that are needed to encourage crop diversity, help healthy soils and end pesticide use.

The Farmers Weekly has also taken a look at how the government is staking green ambitions on farmers. It noted the anger over the lack of a soil strategy within the Environmental Improvement Plan, with the co-director of the Sustainable Soil Alliance Matthew Orman stating that the EIP ‘feels like a rehash of existing announcements’ and the ‘government is putting all its eggs’ in the Environmental Land Management basket. 

A political struggle is taking place over the implementation of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy and its ambitions. Internal documents from the EU show that there are divisions between EU member states over the development and action on the Farm to Fork strategy including around the use of pesticides on farm cropland, animal welfare rules, and standardised food health labels. 

The US has launched a new programme to support farmers across Africa to bolster climate-resilient agriculture. Through a Vision for Adapted Crops and Soil, the programme intends to focus on mapping soils in order to provide more information to farmers on their soils and help them adapt their practices to their soil types. 

A research project is being undertaken in New Zealand to consider the potential of regenerative farming practices to boost soil carbon. The ‘Carbon Positive – Regenerating Soil Carbon’ project is being backed by the New Zealand government with $2 million over six years, to support evidence collection around the impact of regenerative practices on intensive cropping and arable systems 

A long-term German study highlights that $4 billion could be saved through organic farming in the EU. The report shows that if the EU Farm to Fork strategy targets were implemented, including 25% of arable-land converted to organic, a reduction of nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions and their associated costs could be achieved. 

A new study finds that nitrogen pollution from cars and fertilisers prompt soils to release more carbon. Through more nitrogen being in the air from emissions by cars and fertilisers, plants take this nitrogen and put it into the soils. This leads to soils, especially in drylands, becoming heavily acidic and offsetting this by releasing calcium through leaching as calcium can carry some carbon particles.