THE ECONOMICS OF SOIL: PRIVATE ASSET OR PUBLIC GOOD?

Rebecca Pow MP co-hosted our panel event at Portcullis House, Westminster,  on 18 March 2019.

Watch videos of the speakers here.

Speakers: Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury | Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for BEIS | Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency | Dr Toby Willison, Environment Agency | Sue Pritchard, Food Farming & Countryside Commission | Prof Joe Morris, Cranfield University | Prof Chris Collins, Soil Security Programme & SSA Science Panel Lead | Stephen Briggs, Innovation for Agriculture | Dr Jess Davies, Lancaster University | Guy Thompson, En Trade | Andrew Voysey, Soil Capital

2019 will be a critical year in the development of the government’s post-Brexit agro-environment strategy and, as part of this, the concept of ‘Public Funds for Public Goods’. But where does soil sit within this framework? Healthy soil is the farmer’s most important asset: vital for productivity and profit. It also mitigates against water and air pollution, enhances biodiversity, enhances flood prevention – and of course sequesters carbon, helping achieve the country’s climate change targets.
 
Attaching an economic value to this broad suite of environmental services is therefore a significant and timely challenge, and raises interesting questions: How can the private and public benefits of improved soil management be separated? What economic levers should be used to incentivise behaviour change? And finally, where does ultimate responsibility lie for achieving sustainable soils - what role for the farmer, the regulator and the government - and also the supply chain, agrochemical industry and even the investor community?

In our March 2019 event exploring the Economics of Soil, speakers from a range of soil-related fields and specialities discussed  these questions and others at a debate hosted by Rebecca Pow MP at Portcullis House, London. A recurring message throughout 2018 centred on the importance of demonstrating the economic dimension of soil to businesses, MPs and in particular the Treasury, as plans for post-Brexit land management are being put into place. Our event promoted the economic argument for the protection and restoration of our soils and the clear demonstration that healthy soils deliver both public and private benefits.