George Eustice MP, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has claimed that soil health will be central to the Government’s environment policy and that it needs to be cared for.
Speaking via video at the IFOAM conference in November, he said: “Soil health is going to be at the heart of our approach to improving the environment through our 25 year environment plan and also our future agriculture policy, because if we want to deliver for our environment we have to promote improved soil health.”
Inspired by The Agricultural Testament, written by Sir Albert Howard, Eustice said he was keen to learn some of the lessons that came from the organic pioneer’s book and incorporate them into future agriculture policy.
“DEFRA therefore is about to open a funding bid, an R&D tender to explore how we can learn lessons from the organic sector and some of these techniques that always survived on in the organic sector, and how we can actually transfer them to our wider approach to agricultural policy and our wider approach to soils,” he said.
Speaking to the organic farmers at the conference, he said that they “recognize more than anyone else that the soil cannot be mined, it is something that must be cared for and nurtured and if you nurture it properly it will repay you”.
He also highlighted some of the benefits of organic, including improved water and nitrate retention, increased fertility, and a reduction for the need for phosphate fertilizers.
“These are hugely welcomed comments, and demonstrate that the value of our soils, their health and critical importance to our environment, is being recognised at the highest levels,” says Helen Browning, Soil Association CEO. “An acknowledgment of the need for soil protection, and in particular an acknowledgement of the lessons to be learned from organic practices, within agricultural policy is something we have worked hard to secure. We now know DEFRA is committed to addressing this, and we look forward to helping them build a robust and regenerative approach to soils going forward.”