Civil servants have revealed that the Government’s agricultural bill, which is expected to be published later this year, will include measures and targets to maintain and improve soil health.
However, comments made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove which suggest support could be prioritised or limited to those who practice min- or no-till cultivations have caused anger amongst farmers.
Rebecca Pow, parliamentary private secretary, told The Guardian that the bill would include regulation to meet the targets recent set out in the 25-year Environment Plan. “Healthy soil is essential, and there are ways of measuring it, such as the organic matter in the soil. Farmers can be given incentives to improve soil management, such as by crop rotation. It has taken a long time but I think we have turned the corner on getting soil on the political agenda,” she said.
However, speaking at an event in London last week, Michael Gove said the government would support reduced tillage. “We have to move away from our current system, which lacks effective incentives for long-term-thinking, to one that promotes investment in our shared future,” he said. “That will mean we pay farmers to improve the quality and fertility of their soil… “We want to reverse the trends of the past which have led to compaction and run-off, and which have polluted our rivers and choked our fish.”
Although lacking in details, many farmers have expressed concerns on social media that minimal tillage techniques are not suitable for all soils or crops and that any future approach needs to be flexible enough to reflect this.
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