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Nature-friendly farming reforms key to long-term food and farming security

30 March 2022

Welcoming today’s announcement (Weds 30 March) from DEFRA on additional measures to tackle food production farming pressures, Dr Richard Benwell CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said:

“The Government is right to bring forward measures to reduce dependence on artificial fertiliser. Investing in healthier soils and reducing reliance on chemicals is a triple win. It will help steady food production costs in the short term, it will ensure farms stay productive in the future, and it will cut pollution that blights our rivers and streams.

“Some argue more intensive farming is needed to counter pricing pressures, but this crisis should convince government to stick to its path and up the pace in delivering its promise of a more sustainable English farming system.”

Commenting on the detail of today’s announcement:

New guidance for farmers released in the Farming Rules for Water encourages farmers to plant green cover crops to reduce run off. However, this will also be paid for in the Sustainable Farming Incentive. This should be a short-term transitionary measure. In the medium-term, green cover for nitrogen fixing purposes must be a baseline requirement and implemented through the Farming Rules for Water.

Urea fertiliser contributes to air pollution. In its consultation on reducing ammonia pollution, the Government had previously described a ban on solid urea fertilisers as its preferred option. Today’s announcement states that urea fertiliser will not be banned at this point, but new measures will be introduced to limit pollution from urea fertiliser. Ahead of a review in 2025/26, the Government should set out measurable thresholds for pollution reduction against which the success of these policies should be judged and commit to further restrictions if those thresholds are not met.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. See our briefing on the farming transition and food security and see here for more information on Link’s Agriculture Working Group, including a report on why the agricultural transition needs to go further and faster in order to benefit nature, climate and people.
2. Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 65 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Our members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas. Together we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and directly protect over 750,000 hectares of land and 800 miles of coastline.