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1 March 2024

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has spoken out against the Welsh government’s planned farming subsidy scheme. He has called the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme ‘damaging’, saying that allocating 10% of farmland for trees risks food security. This comes as thousands of farmers in Cardiff protested against the proposed legislation on Wednesday.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced £25 million in funding for the development of nature-based flood prevention measures. Newly funded projects include the Severn Rivers Trust in the West Midlands who will implement soil and land management measures aimed at reducing soil erosion and supporting agricultural practices.

The Environment Agency has warned farmers in the southwest against growing crops which could increase the risk of flooding and pollution. They say that ‘high-risk’ crops, including maize and potatoes can cause soil erosion if grown in unsuitable soils, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather events. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) are supportive of the advice, saying that the approach helps farmers and recognises the challenges of food production.

Farmers across the UK have been speaking of the impact of winter flooding at the NFU conference, saying that persistent rain has meant that it has not been possible to plant winter crops due to waterlogged soil. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has predicted a 25% drop in wheat outputs, and an increased demand for spring seed means higher prices adding to financial pressure.

The Farm Carbon Toolkit’s Soil Farmer of the Year competition closes for entries on 5th March. The competition, which has been running since 2015, aims to find champion farmers who are passionate about soil health and farm resilience. You can enter the competition here.

It has been warned that the use of outdated carbon accounting tools could have a negative environmental impact. Responding to Co-op’s new scheme to financially reward beef farmers for reducing their environmental impact, the article points to Defra’s recent Harmonisation of Carbon Accounting Tools for Agriculture report which recommends tools which align with a high level of standards.

West Berkshire Council are hosting an event to give away soil conditioner to local residents. The scheme, which is run in partnership with waste management firm Veolia, provides free soil made from local food and garden waste. This is the fourth time the council has hosted a soil giveaway, which they expect to continue to be extremely popular.

Soil health and earthworms were discussed on this month’s episode of UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s podcast Counting the Earth. The episode focuses on the number 50 trillion – the estimated number of Earthworms in the UK. Sustainable Soils Alliance Director Ellen Fay features to discuss soil health, the state of UK soils and what needs to be done to protect them.