UK can become 'world-leader' in nature-friendly farming

Britain can deliver a 'Green Brexit' and become the 'environmental superpower' the government promised, the Soil Association says
Britain can deliver a 'Green Brexit' and become the 'environmental superpower' the government promised, the Soil Association says

The UK can become a world leader in nature-friendly farming and go further than the EU - regardless of the outcome of Brexit, according to the Soil Association.

But this can only happened if there are 'radical' changes to the UK food and farming policy, the charity's new report says.

Launched in Parliament on Monday 10 June, it examines claims by ministers that the UK could have a greener agriculture policy outside of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Through the report, the Soil Association hopes to hold government to these claims and highlight a 'previous lack of ambition' in UK food and farming policy.

It finds that while the UK has been a pioneer in developing incentives for environmentally friendly farming via agri-environment schemes, other European countries are ahead in key areas.

The report lists examples, including agroforestry in France, which integrates trees and farming, a fairer supply chain legislation for farmers in Spain, and the Danish public sector is on track to be 60% organic by 2020.

In contrast, the report highlights that the UK has no target for organic food in public procurement and agroforestry is yet to be effectively incentivised, despite its potential for climate resilience, productivity and soil health.

'UK needs more ambitious domestic policies'

Gareth Morgan, Soil Association Head of Policy, said 'ambitious domestic policies' are required to achieve a 'Green Brexit'.

“With other European countries already ahead of the UK in key areas, it’s clear that current and draft food and farming legislation does not go far enough.

“For example, in Copenhagen 90% of food procured in key public institutions is organic, which has led to an increase in organic farm land, thanks to tough government commitments.

“But in the UK, we have no such targets at all - if other countries are not being held back by the EU’s CAP, nor should we be.”

Mr Morgan added: “Becoming the 'environmental superpower' government has promised is achievable, regardless of what happens with Brexit, but only if we make radical changes.”

Report recommendations for 'Green Brexit'

• Integrating legislation on climate, biodiversity, soils and diets to deliver long-term targets to protect natural resources.

• Developing a 10-year agroecology transition plan supporting whole-farm approaches like organic and agroforestry.

• Commitment to long-term funding beyond 2022, and ensuring trade deals protect high UK standards

• Investment in independent farmer advice and training to embed sustainability in UK farming, with agroecology in the agricultural curriculum.

• Develop local food and farming infrastructure and supply chains to support nature-friendly farming.