Reporting from the Oxford Farming Conference the Soil Association (SA) says it is still awaiting ‘the bold and decisive announcement needed from Government to give farmers confidence and spark a mainstream shift to truly nature-friendly farming’.

While the SA welcomes several Government announcements made at the Oxford Farming Conference – including confirmation that farmers will be further incentivized to ‘protect insects and restore habitats’ and offered payment hikes to encourage them to sign up for both the Environmental Land Management Scheme and the Countryside Stewardship scheme – the plans don’t go far enough.

Gareth Morgan, head of farming policy at the SA, comments: “Today’s payment hike recognizes the poor uptake so far of the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, but farmers still await the bold vision and clarity they need to invest with confidence in a transition to nature-friendly farming systems, like organic. We are running out of time – Government needs more game-changing action.

“If we are to truly reverse the catastrophic decline in wildlife and meet our climate goals, we need bolder ambition with support for farmers to protect nature across their entire farm, not just in protected areas. Transformative change is needed rather than tinkering around the edges. The Environmental Land Management Scheme cannot achieve this in isolation – trade deals, carbon markets and supply chains must also work to ensure British farmers can produce nature-friendly food that is good for both the planet and human health.

This is not the big announcement we have been waiting for

“This is not the big announcement we have been waiting for, but we are pleased to see the Government starting to recognize the vital role of smaller and tenant farmers by improving their access to the Environmental Land Management Scheme. It is also encouraging to hear the minister making the case for the resilience that nature-friendly farming can bring, and the role insects must play in sustainable food production. Support for farmers to switch to predatory insects for pest control, instead of using toxic pesticides, is vital. Hedgerows and grass and flower strips both within fields and at the edges will not only create habitats for insects and other wildlife, but help farmers be more resilient by moving away from increasingly expensive chemical inputs.”

The SA continues to call for support for whole-farm approaches to protecting and restoring nature; investment in practical advice and farmer-to-farmer learning; Government intervention to ‘overhaul our broken food chain so that it stops encouraging people to eat unhealthy, unsustainable, ultra-processed diets’; a continuation of the Countryside Stewardship incentives; and governance of carbon offsetting to ‘ensure carbon markets deliver for the environment and actually work for farmers by not conflicting with farm support policies’.

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Having spent the early part of career putting her BA (Hons) in Media Writing to use as a freelancer writer across a number of industries – from wellbeing, food and travel to design and events – Rosie Greenaway’s post as editor of Natural Products News and Natural Beauty News began in 2017. In 2018 she co-launched NPN’s 30 under 30 initiative, is a regular presenter and speaker on industry panels, is a judge of several awards schemes in food and beauty (from the Soil Association’s BOOM Awards to the Who’s Who in Green Beauty Scandinavia) and acts as an Advisory Board Member for the Sustainable Beauty Coalition.