EFRA urges prioritising soil health on same level as air and water

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) published the findings of its inquiry into soil health last week.

Soil health
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

The EFRA Committee’s inquiry examined how to turn the tide on soil degradation and calls for the Government to put soil health on the same footing as water and air quality. The report proposes statutory targets for soil health by 2028, aligning with existing water and air quality targets. The Committee also emphasised that soil health monitoring must be on a continuous, ongoing basis not as “a one-off event”.

The report calls on the Government to fund the widespread, standardised testing of soil through its Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes and to work with industry on an agreed set of metrics of soil health by 2024 as well as definitions of sustainable farming. The Committee also recommends that Government should aim ‘for nearly all farmers and growers (90% or more) to be part of an ELM scheme by 2040′.

Additionally, the Committee recommended the introduction, by 2035, of a regulatory framework to focus on preventing soil degradation and contamination across various sectors, including construction and planning, as well as agriculture. With soil waste making up 58% of tonnage received by landfills, MPs recommend that these laws should aim to prevent soil waste ending up in landfill.

Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said: “Sustaining and restoring the country’s soil is essential for our ability to grow food and protect this vital habitat. Threats to soil health are in turn threats to our domestic food supply. For too long soil has been treated differently to water and air, but our Committee’s report says that it is about that time that soil health is considered on an equal footing with these other critical assets”.

He added, “It is not only farmers who have an impact on our soils, but other actors in various sectors. Our report recommends that Government introduces regulations to protect soils across England, to ensure that everyone is playing their part in protecting soil health.”