Speaking at the Oxford Farming conference last year, Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove announced the Government’s intention to abolish a farm policy based on production. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has long made direct payments to farmers without incentivising environmental or social outputs.
In contrast, the focus of Gove’s Agricultural Bill, the biggest overhaul of UK farm policy since the end of the Second World War, has been on sustainable land management. It proposes a system of payments to farmers for undertaking environmental measures, such as flood management measures and increasing wildlife numbers on-farm.
The evidence overwhelmingly suggests the world’s natural resources – land, soil, water, air, biodiversity – are being depleted and damaged in ways which threaten food production in the longterm and also have broader implications for human well-being.
As well as being a victim itself, the food system has a role in protecting and preserving our planetary resources and food-producing capacity for future generations. That means everything from protecting soils to planning farm succession.
One of the greatest threats to farming is the loss of fertile soil. Around one-third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion or pollution in the last 40 years, according to scientists[ 2]. The UN has gone as far as warning the world’s soils have an estimated 60 harvests left before they are too degraded. While, a study in the UK has predicted soils here have an estimated 100 harvests in them.
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