Just £10m a year needed to combat soil degradation in England
Widespread soil degradation caused by poor farming and land management practices is threatening food security across England, according to a report released today by the WWF.
The NGO warns that the issue is causing soil to be destroyed at approximately 10 times the rate it is being created, costing England and Wales around £1.2bn every year.
However, it was found that just £10m of annual investment is needed to tackle the problem and ensure England’s agricultural sector is still productive by the end of this century.
This would also reverse the declining health of rivers caused by soil degradation, with the WWF adding that huge benefits could be made if subsidies are redirected to improve land use in small areas of farmland.
“Healthy soil is vital for our national security, yet we continue to cause immense damage to it, not only threatening our long-term food supply but also harming our rivers and wildlife,” WWF executive director, Tony Juniper, said.
“None of this is inevitable though – we could have a farming system that restores soils and wildlife, while at the same time stopping agricultural run-off polluting our rivers.”
It was found that up to a third of farmers might be non-compliant with England’s current water protection legislation, while the Environment Agency’s current resources only allow it to visit less than 1% of farms each year.
The proposed £10m annual investment would go towards rolling out effective enforcement, as well as creating a locally coordinated advice service to help farmers implement the rules.
In addition, it is estimated that fully reimbursing farmers for changing land use on small areas would cost less than £500m a year in England, which would easily be covered by the current £2bn Common Agricultural Policy subsidy.
The government has signalled its intention to move to a new land management usage system, with the WWF highlighting how this, along with investing in enforcement and advice, provides an opportunity for significant cost savings.
“We need not only the right legislation, however, but also robust enforcement and proper advice for farmers, otherwise new policies simply won’t work,” Juniper continued.
“The good news is that this will cost only about £10m a year.”
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM