Governance & policy

We maintain a library of the latest UK and international research and policy background material for academics, students, politicians and anyone interested in learning more about the science and policy of soil health.

Agriculture Bill


12 September 2018

The first Agriculture Bill in the UK since 1947 presents the government’s plans for farming, land management and the countryside post-Brexit, when the European CAP subsidy system will be replaced by a ‘payment for public goods’ system.

Environmental Land Management: Our vision for a future scheme


May 2018

This document outlines Defra’s vision for a new Environmental Land Management scheme built on the foundation of the Government’s ambition to leave the environment in a better state than it was found.


The Government's 25 Year Plan for the Environment

Environmental Audit Committee

18 July 2018

"Worryingly, [the 25 YEP] lacks details of how [its] objectives will be achieved. The Government needs urgently to bring forward details on targets, implementation, governance and funding before the publication of the draft Environmental Principles and Governance Bill. Legislation will be required to implement the Plan’s key proposals and to ensure it has a lasting impact. Government departments other than DEFRA need to embrace the Plan’s ambitions and integrate them into their decision making."

UK Peatland Strategy

International Union for the Conservation of Nature

April 2018

"Peatlands are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth and a stark example of how important our natural environment is to our wellbeing. Occupying just 3% of the Earth’s land surface, peatlands are our largest carbon store on land. They are places where people derive clean water and food, and can act as buffers for environmental disasters, such as flooding. They are also of global significance for biodiversity with the majority of peatland species and habitats rare, threatened or declining."

A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment

HM Government


"Our natural environment is our most precious inheritance. The United Kingdom is blessed with a wonderful variety of natural landscapes and habitats and our 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our comprehensive and long-term approach to protecting and enhancing them in England for the next generation.

Its goals are simple: cleaner air and water; plants and animals which are thriving; and a cleaner, greener country for us all...this plan sets out the further action that we will take."

Health & Harmony: the future for food, farming & the environment in a Green Brexit


February 2018

“Leaving the European Union (EU) provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform agriculture. This paper outlines how we plan to change the way we use the land, so as better to promote health and harmony.

The proposals in this paper set out a range of possible paths to a brighter future for farming. They are the beginning of a conversation, not a conclusion and we want everyone who cares about the food we eat and the environment around us to contribute.”


Soil Health: First Report of Session 2016-17

Environmental Audit Committee

May 2016

"Soil is crucial to society. Neglecting soil health could have dire consequences for food security, climate change, and public health. Some of the most productive agricultural land in England is at risk of becoming unprofitable within a generation...and the natural environment will be seriously harmed. 

The importance of soil has not always been reflected in public discourse or Gov't policy...Defra's upcoming 25-year environment plan soil protection at the heart of environmental policy "

Securing UK Soil Health

Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology

August 2015

"2015 is the United Nations International Year of Soils. Soils underpin the global food system and regulate water, carbon and nitrogen cycles but are subject to pressures from population growth and climate change.

In England & Wales, soil degradation costs around £1bn per year. This POSTnote outlines the evidence for measures that sustain soils and existing policies affecting soil health."

New basic rules for farmers to tackle diffuse water pollution from agriculture in England: Impact Assessment



This study aimed to estimate the total economic cost of soil degradation in England and Wales in order to inform priority areas for future research and policy. Six main processes of soil degradation and their effects on soil quality were indentified for analysis, namely: erosion, compaction, decline in organic content, loss of soil biota, diffuse contamination and surface sealing.

The State of Natural Capital: Protecting and Improving Natural Capital for Prosperity and Wellbeing

The Natural Capital Committee: 3rd report to the Economic Affairs Committee


The Natural Capital Committee (NCC) was established in 2012 as an independent advisory body to Government…It formally reports to the Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (advising) on how to ensure England’s ‘natural wealth’ is managed efficiently and sustainably, thereby unlocking opportunities for sustained prosperity and wellbeing.


Natural Environment White Paper: Implementation update report


October 2014

The Natural Environment White Paper recognised that a healthy natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing. It set out 92 specific commitments for action. There has been ongoing good progress implementing the commitments, with 3/4 now assessed as “completed”. The White Paper sets long term ambitions. The England Natural Environment Indicators will be used to track progress against the broad ambitions of the White Paper.

Environmental Economics & Environmental Policy: Some Introductory Comments

University of Kent / La Strobe University

January 2013

"Economics has become ever more important in the way it influences and shapes many areas of government policy....there are frequently many misconceptions and negative views expressed about the role of economics in policy making. 

In this paper we will explain why economics matters for nature conservation."

The Natural Choice: Securing the value of nature

Natural Environment White Paper, Defra


Nature is sometimes taken for granted and undervalued. But people cannot flourish without the benefits and services our natural environment provides. Nature is a complex, interconnected system. A healthy, properly functioning natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing. This is why we must properly value the economic and social benefits of a healthy natural environment while continuing to recognise nature’s intrinsic value.

UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Understanding nature’s value to society



Key messages: the natural world is critically important to wellbeing and economic prosperity, but consistently undervalued in economic analyses & decision making; the UK’s ecosystems are currently delivering some services well, but others are still in long-term decline; actions taken now will have impact far into the future; and a move to sustainable development will require a mix of regulations, tech, finance & education, as well as changes in individual and societal behaviour & more integrated ecosystem management.


Safeguarding our Soils: A Strategy for England


September 2009

"Along with air and water, soil is one of the building blocks of life. It gives us food, clothing and fuel. It supports our buildings and infrastructure, stores water and carbon, is home to a wide range of biodiversity and sustains some of our most valued landscapes. Yet it is so much a part of everyday life, in our gardens, parks and even window boxes, that there’s a danger of taking it for granted."


Soil Strategy for England - Supporting Evidence Paper


September 2009

A detailed analysis of the evidence on why soils are important and the pressures being faced; published alongside the Soil Strategy.

“Soil is a fundamental and irreplaceable natural resource and provides an essential link between the components that make up our environment. It is also a non-renewable resource and needs to be utilised in a way that does not endanger it for future generations.”

Soil: A precious resource
Our strategy for protecting, managing and restoring soil

Environment Agency

October 2007

"Soil provides benefits that we have taken for granted for too long. As our understanding of soil increases, we are seeing signs that contamination and poor management are causing problems in England and Wales. Over the years we have seen a steady loss of soil because of development and increasing signs of damage, degradation and erosion."

POSTnote: UK Soil Degradation

Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology

July 2006

"This POSTnote examines the nature and extent of soil degradation in the UK and the challenges and opportunities for soils in a changing climate. These include the potential for using degraded and polluted soils in the built environment for brownfield redevelopment as well as the possibility of using soils to mitigate carbon emissions."