If the Italian Minister of Agriculture were to get together with the Minister of the Environment (as well still like to call it) to announce that part of the funds for the PNRR will be allocated to compensate farmers who work to preserve the natural fertility of the soil, we would probably think it was a joke.
However, from this year farmers in the UK will be paid for taking care of the land for the first time!
“Soil protection has been chosen as the first such payment after repeated government promises to prioritise the UK’s soils, which are a vital store of carbon. Some of the measures farmers will be required to undertake in return for the payments would be routine for many farmers anyway, such as planting cover crops on bare soil over winter. Bare soils are prey to erosion and runoff, so ensuring fields are covered in a crop that can return nutrients to the soil is key to its preservation.”
“Farmers will be paid between £20 and £58 per hectare in England for basic measures to protect and nurture their soils, and nearly all farmers are likely to be eligible to apply for the payments, which will cover arable soils for crop cultivation as well as grassland, moorland and other soils.”
“Environmental groups criticised the measures as puny and accused ministers of failing in their promises to use the UK’s departure from the EU to strengthen environmental protections and reduce the damaging impacts of farming.”
The leaders of three of the UK’s biggest green and conservation groups: the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB and the National Trust jointly accused the government of failing to take seriously the urgent need for nature-friendly farming. They pointed to the sharp declines of native wildlife over the past three decades and said the government’s plans would do little to remedy that.
“The shift will eventually lead to farmers signing environmental land management contracts, committing them to take measures to protect air and water quality and provide habitats for wildlife, in return for payments yet to be set out in detail. In the interim, the sustainable finance initiative – of which the soils scheme is the first part – will provide payments for basic environmental measures.”
“Farming groups cautiously welcomed the new measures – which the government said had been designed to be flexible, to allow tenant farmers to apply easily, and to avoid “punitive” conditions in case of accidental breaches – but some are concerned they will not go far enough.”
As the farm policy adviser at the Tenant Farmers Association said:
“Given today’s commodity markets, many farmers will take the view that it is more financially beneficial to farm for [food] production rather than for soil protection, under the cost structure announced.”
What a pleasure it is to see concrete measure being taken, rather than the usual blah-blah-blah.
I wonder if Italian ministers will bear this policy in mind, perhaps when drawing up the national plans for the next CAP.