Saturday, March 28, 2020

Soil will be cornerstone of new environmental scheme

February 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Crops

Protecting and enhancing soil health will be at the heart of a new flagship environmental land management scheme, the government has confirmed.

The forthcoming environmental land management scheme will encourage growers and livestock producers to look after soil – improving its structure, minimising erosion and using it for carbon sequestration to help mitigation climate change.

The new scheme will largely replace direct payments, which are due to be phased out over seven years starting in 2021. Provisions for the scheme are included in the government’s Agriculture Bill, which is making its way through Parliament.

The environmental land management scheme is already being tested and trialled with farmers. At the same time, the government says it wants to help to boost productivity and maximise the potential of land for sustainable food production.

‘Crucial goals’

The Bill was introduced to Parliament in January by then Defra secretary Theresa Villiers. She said it would transform British farming – balancing the needs of food production and the environment to safeguard UK agriculture and the countryside for the future.

Mrs Villiers said: “This is one of the most important environmental reforms for many years, rewarding farmers for the work they do to safeguard our environment and helping us meet crucial goals on climate change and protecting nature and biodiversity.”

The government says the new approach will help to unleash the potential of UK agriculture. And it says investing in the foundations of food production – such as clean air, soils and water – will safeguard UK food security.

Industry leaders have called for more information about the scheme – and sooner rather than later. While it is not due to be universally available for four years, the transition period towards the new regime is set to begin in less than a year.

‘Get it right’

Country Land and Business Association  president Mark Bridgeman said: “Less than a year from the beginning of the transition period we still have no idea how the scheme will work in practice, and what it will mean for individual farmers.

“We have a tremendous opportunity here, but removing direct payments before the new schemes are ready will put otherwise viable businesses at risk unnecessarily.

“The CLA has been calling for payments for public goods for many years and we know that the new scheme is an exciting, ambitious and potentially world-leading policy. That is why it is so important to get the transition right.”

Defra says farmers new to environmental work – or hoping to do increase the amount of environmental work they do under the forthcoming scheme – will be able to use the transition period to understand how it can work best for their farm.

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