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21 July 2023

Defra has published its annual report on the state of UK agriculture. The amount of land farmed decreased by 2.2%, while the biggest driver of inflation for agricultural inputs was fertilisers and soil improvers. Basic Payments to farmers decreased by £222 million as agri-environmental payments, including the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), increased by £2 million. 

A new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests the current lack of ambition in land use change will require deeper emissions cuts elsewhere or risk failing to meet emissions targets. It argues the UK government must lead and invest in a robust industrial strategy that supports farmers, promotes sustainable food chains, and ensures access to healthy food for all.

Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Rural Affairs minister has published co-designed reports and the Welsh Government's response, with views from farmers, for the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). Feedback included the need for the scheme to be phased in and better recognition of good management of existing habitats. The SFS aims to reduce farm carbon footprints and promote nature conservation while sustaining farm businesses. A consultation on the scheme later this year will be the next stage.

Morrisons has teamed up with Downforce Technologies to analyse soil health and calculate emissions on five pilot farms, forming their "Blueprint Farms." The collaboration aims to optimise sustainable farming practices and help Morrisons become the first UK supermarket directly supplied by net-zero carbon British farms by 2030.

Natural England and Defra are launching six new landmark nature projects covering 176,000 hectares of land in the UK, including areas like the Tees Estuary, South Downs, and the Lost Wetlands in Cheshire and Lancashire. They aim to boost wildlife recovery, improve carbon stores, and build diverse habitats for endangered species like the wart biter cricket.

The US State Department has announced $100 million for the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) program, initially targeting the African continent. VACS aims to enhance soil fertility, promote better farm management, and develop resilient crop varieties to combat the challenges posed by climate change, pests, extreme weather, and variable rainfall. 

U.S. Congressmen Mike Flood and Joe Neguse have introduced the Sustainable Agriculture Research Act to support sustainable agriculture and soil research through the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA) program. The bill aims to focus on precision agriculture technology, drought impacts, and voluntary carbon sequestration efforts. 

Almost half of the EU is facing severe drought, with dry soils leading to a risk of fires across most of Europe and concerns for food production. A heatwave with temperatures above 40 degrees celsius is hitting southern Europe. While some areas are recovering from a prolonged drought, others, like Spain and Portugal, are still struggling, leading to significant impacts on food and crops.