Government follows CPRE’s lead in recognising the value of soil

16th January 2020

The government’s new agriculture bill, published in January 2020, includes lots of radical proposals to the way England farms. But there’s one especially pleasing change – and it’s something that we’ve campaigned on for some time.

We’re delighted to see that the bill recognises the need for our soils to be regenerated. It’s easy to overlook soil, or to dismiss it as simply the earth beneath our feet – but we at CPRE have long recognised soil as one of the fundamental building blocks of our entire agricultural system.

We rely on rain falling on a thin layer of soil which can be just a few centimetres thick to grow the crops which become our food. But this essential soil is fragile and faces significant pressures. The climate emergency further contributes to the risk of harm to soil, and so our December 2018 soils report, Back to the land, made recommendations about what more could be done to keep soils healthy.

Helping farmers to help soil

The new bill, in recognition of the threat to this precious commodity – and in a pleasing sign of progress from the bill published in 2018 –states that the government will provide support for farmers to improve the management of their soil, as we recommended.

Crispin Truman, our chief executive, said:

‘This agriculture bill has been a long time coming but it’s clear the government has listened to our message about how essential our soils are. We need healthy soil for the supply of food and clean water, and to help us lock up carbon to tackle the climate emergency.

‘As new payment schemes for farmers are developed, there must be clear support for approaches already being pioneered and made to work by farmers such as agroforestry and conservation agriculture. But farmers need training, mentoring and advice to help them roll out nature-friendly farming across the countryside.’

Want to better understand the role that soil plays in not only providing us with food but also keeping our planet healthy? Read more about the farmers who are already streets ahead in regenerating soils and helping their farms to thrive.

farmer holding plant
Farmer John Cherry, a soils expert, on his farm in Hertfordshire