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03 March 2023

New polls have been released showing that there is strong support in Britain for environmental protection. Research by Unchecked UK found that over two thirds of UK businesses believe plans to remove EU environmental regulations from UK law will increase uncertainty, and 72% of UK businesses back environmental regulation. The polling was prompted by the UK government’s plan to remove several EU regulations from UK law through the Retained EU Law Bill (REUL).

A map of current droughts in Europe by the scientific EU Copernicus programme, shows that Europe is experiencing winter droughts from France across to Turkey. It warns of there being low soil moisture. The amount of water available to soils across Europe is falling short of their water-holding capacity, leading to a soil moisture deficit which could affect the ability of soils to support crop production and be resilient during the drier summer period.

The EU Commission warns of progress on pesticide reduction plans in the EU being stalled. A leaked letter from the EU Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture stated that it will take time to give its opinion on the pesticide reduction plans set out in the EU Farm to Fork strategy, as it wishes to consider ‘supplementary data’. This reiterates a similar position taken by several EU agriculture ministers. The EU Commission has accused the Committee of blocking progress.

Experts from the University of Reading who are leading the UK part of a European reforestation programme have highlighted that widespread agroforestry would boost carbon storage in soils. They show that if half of all UK farms undertook agroforestry, they would achieve net zero by 2037 on arable farms, and by 2044 for livestock farms. Trees help keep farmland soils moist, protecting soil carbon and supporting crop growth.

Following a recent symposium on financing agroecology, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission researcher, Dr Jim Scowen makes the case for national collection of farm environmental data. Scowen notes that a barrier to farms being given financial support to transition to regenerative practices, is the lack of accessible and credible data on the impact of their transition on the environment, such as increased soil carbon or better soil health.

An article in Resilience magazine examines where small holdings and horticulture currently stand within post-Brexit farm policy in England. The focus of the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMs) on farm practices supporting the environment, including soil health has made the schemes more available to small-holdings compared to previous land-based payments. However, there is concern that limited focus has been given to ensure the schemes are workable for small-scale producers.

A scheme providing funding for farmers in the Midlands to plant woodland by the water company, Severn Trent, has been extended. The scheme is now funding woodland creation on small areas of land (2.2-5 acres) with the aim to enhance biodiversity and improve soil health on unproductive land in the water catchment area covered by Severn Trent. This ultimately seeks to improve water quality.