The Soil Association remains frustrated at the government’s continued failure to provide clarity on future support for English farmers to protect the environment.
While recognising the government’s desire to ensure the scheme delivers for nature and climate, the sustainable food and farming organisation was disappointed to hear reports that the delayed review of nature-friendly farming reforms may come as late as February.
Environmental and farming groups were expecting a significant update on the future of the Environmental Land Management Scheme today (Thursday 1 December) when Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey addressed the CLA conference in London.
The Soil Association welcomes the Environment Secretary’s comments that food production and protecting nature can be “symbiotic”, with her saying: “The choice is not producing food or doing environmental schemes, it’s about making space for nature and that must go alongside sustainable food production. They are not mutually exclusive.”
But the speech left English farmers – who are facing huge pressures – still desperately lacking the long overdue details they need to both manage their businesses and activate a shift to nature-friendly farming.
Soil Association Head of Farming Policy Gareth Morgan said: “We remain frustrated at the continued government failure to give farmers confidence that previous promises to reward sustainable food production will be upheld.
“Delays and rumours of watering down plans to reward farmers for protecting the environment must end now. This policy is crucial at a time when our food system is in crisis – fertiliser, feed and energy costs for farmers are skyrocketing, wildlife populations are in freefall, shoppers are being priced out of sustainable food, and climate change is escalating at an unprecedented rate.
“It is disappointing that Defra has been unable to restore confidence in the government’s commitment to supporting nature-friendly farmers right on the eve of the UN Biodiversity Summit COP15. With farmland making up the vast majority of English land, this risks undermining pledges to restore nature before they have even been made.
“We urgently need transformative change with investment in a revolutionary shift to the most evidence-based solution – resilient, nature-friendly, agroecological farming. We also must see a renewed commitment to long-term support for our nature-friendly farming pioneers in the organic sector.”