State of Nature - we can save wildlife by transforming farming
The Soil Association is deeply concerned by the State of Nature report published today that reveals worrying declines in wildlife species across the UK - and urges government to recognise farming as a key solution.
Head of Farming Policy Gareth Morgan said: “It is deeply concerning to see this detailed report on the state of nature in the UK but sadly it does not come as a huge shock. Farmland makes up 70% of Britain and we can’t fix the decline in nature without a transformation in food and farming. Many farmers are working with nature and many more are keen to do so. But we remain too dependent on over-intensive, chemical-reliant methods such as industrial livestock systems fed on imported soy. The evidence shows some success for recovery in small protected areas but we cannot ignore what happens in the rest of our countryside where we need a renewed focus on producing good food in harmony with nature.
"Farmers want to be part of the solution and Westminster’s new Sustainable Farming Incentives are a first, important step forward. But this report is yet more evidence that progress is too slow. All UK governments must act now to help farmers switch to resilient, climate and wildlife sensitive methods across their entire farms. With 50% more wildlife on organic farms, agroecological farmers are proving that a better way is possible and practical. Nature and farming can thrive together. But we are running out of time. We must accelerate the pace of change before it’s too late for the wildlife we both love and depend on for our survival."
We are calling for government to:
- Double investment in nature-friendly farming across the UK with increased farm support and education about organic and agroecological farming.
- Double agroforestry and on-farm woodland cover by 2050 to boost British fruit and nut production and meet our tree planting targets.
- Set ambitious reduction targets for pesticide and nitrogen fertiliser use – alongside support for farmers to shift to alternative practices.
- Double British fruit and vegetable production using agroecological methods.
- Double organic farmland, and support all farmers to adopt agroecological practices that don’t rely on overuse of fossil-fuel derived chemical fertilisers, pesticides or antibiotics.
- Ensure at least half of food in schools and hospitals is British, local, and sustainable, including organic.
- Invest in farmer-led research into sustainable practices to help farmers have confidence to adopt these at scale on their farms.
- Prioritise nature alongside net zero - biodiversity needs to be given equal weight with carbon capture when establishing green credentials, and we must measure the outcomes to ensure policies and practices are having the intended effects.