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Save our soils - Soil Association commends APPG on new soil report

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agroecology for Sustainable Food and Farming’s inquiry into the health of UK soils says current policy is failing to protect Britain’s soils.
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Its report, which calls for an urgent review into the subsidy regime for maize for anaerobic digestion, says the UK places little importance on soil, resulting in ‘a worrying lack of knowledge’.

 

Although 95 per cent of our food comes from soil, the political agenda does not reflect this and policy is ‘insufficient in protecting it’, the report says.

 

A panel of MPs and peers heard experts from the NFU, Rothamsted Research Institute, the Soil Association and Cranfield University among others.

 

Breakdown

 

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, who led the inquiry, said: “Failure to tackle current problems will lead to catastrophic environmental, economic and social breakdown. Reversing the loss of soils, along with restoring knowledge and interest in soil, are essential first steps to sustainable food production.”

 

The report recommends measures within Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to incentivise farmers to improve organic matter with initiatives such as agroforestry, which it says could mitigate against harmful monocrops like maize grown for energy.

 

The findings echo the recent Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report on soil health.

 

The panel supports recommendation 691 from the EAC report, which calls for agricultural practices that maximise soil health and landowner incentives to restore soil quality to help mitigate against flooding; policies the APPG says could help deliver on food security as well as prevent flood damage.

 

Encouraging

 

Georgia Farnworth, policy officer at the Soil Association, said the report was ‘hugely encouraging’.

 

“Our evidence to the APPG into the need to protect our soils have been agreed, especially from the negative impacts of growing maize, which were highlighted in this report as well as by the Environmental Audit Committee and in the recent DECC consultation,” she said.

 

To view the full report, click here.

 

 


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The inquiry’s concerns:

  • Climate change: the government’s incremental plans to improve agricultural performance are ‘far from sufficient’. Soils must be incorporated into government strategy
  • Knowledge: it isn’t possible to study soil science below postgraduate level, making it a neglected component of land use. Policymakers, farmers and advisers are less likely to consider soil as the cause or solution to a problem
  • Testing and data collection: the national picture is ‘deplorably lacking’ and there are no assessment plans, despite a government commitment to ensure all soils are managed sustainably by 2030
  • Farming methods: maize crops for energy are often implicated in soil compaction and flooding. Policy must encourage extensive over intensive farming and the agricultural business and political infrastructure must work harder to safeguard soil.
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