The new Agriculture Bill rewards farmers for protecting soil

The UK’s soil contains around 10 billion tonnes of carbon, that’s roughly 80 years of annual greenhouse gas emissions, so managing soil health plays an important role in reducing emissions. To do this, farmers need support for the extra time and financial costs it places on them. The new Agriculture Bill is set to reward them for this work with the aim of improving environment and food production.

The Agriculture Bill is positioned to reward farmers for their efforts towards improving soil and environment health. It introduces a public money for “public goods” scheme that replaces the current subsidy scheme of Direct Payments where farmers are paid for the total amount of land farmed. Unfortunately, this is biased towards the largest landowners rather than farmers that deliver specific public benefits. Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Environment said that public goods are: “measures to protect our climate.” Defra expect that this will contribute towards net zero emissions by 2050 and help farmers boost their productivity. 

Farmers manage 70% of UK land, which they are expected to manage more effectively and sustainably to boost food production and reduce emissions. The price of food today does not reflect the value of natural capital, so farmers are forced to compromise the quality of their soil and environment to meet the growing demand for food with decreasing resources while keeping their business afloat. 

In order to transition to a more sustainable and productive agricultural industry, farmers need financial support for the extra time and money they put into adopting new farming practices, which could reveal valuable data insights into their fields’ soil health. The ever-advancing agri-tech industry provides solutions that simplify the adoption of new farming practices. Innovative technology such as drones and IoT devices have the potential to improve farmers’ productivity.

Rewarding farmers for their work towards improving soil and environment health will help increase their productivity and drive towards more sustainable farming practices. One way of supporting farmers with this movement would be the ability to track and manage their progress through agri-tech. Soil is a vital natural capital resource, with carbon losses costing the UK around £3.21 billion every year according to the Sustainable Food Trust. The valuable asset requires investment to monitor and improve health to boost farmers’ productivity and drive more sustainable farming practices. 

In the UK there are more than 700 types of soil, growing 1cm every 300 years. Damaged soil impacts the environment because it affects plant growth by restricting the amount of carbon they absorb from the atmosphere. Insufficient data on soil health requires investment to boost the productivity and sustainability of food production. The Agriculture Bill is set to address this issue with the expected result of reduced carbon emissions and impacts from climate change.

In the Environment Agency’s paper The State of the Environment: Soil, Chair Emma Howard notes that: “there is less information about the soil that any other part of the environment.” Data insights on soil could provide valuable routes to improving productivity and sustainability, and agri-tech solutions have the potential to improve this inadequacy. 

Three times more carbon is stored in soil than what is in the atmosphere, so if soil health is not treated with high importance, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to impact climate change. Climate change increases weather extremities which drastically impact farmers yields. In the south-west of the UK where maize is often grown on steep slopes, fields experience huge losses as heavy rainfall washes away uncovered soil between planted maize. Adopting innovative technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) provides farmers with the ability to monitor weather conditions such as rainfall in real-time. As a result, they can to take action and make more informed business decisions.

These technologies provide valuable agri-data which could increase agriculture’s productivity and sustainability. But without a system that provides data simple data collection from any source, these data sources are difficult to manage. Glas Data’s data management dashboard, GlasCore, aims to streamline farmers’ workflow while increasing their productivity with valuable data insights. 

In the Agriculture Bill farmers are promised to be rewarded for their effort towards soil health and environment management. Defra sees the bill as a means to boost the industry’s productivity “after years of inefficient and overly bureaucratic policy” left many farmers unrewarded for their hard work. Rewards for soil health not only supports farmers’ income but also betters the industry’s sustainability and makes net-zero carbon emissions in 2050 more achievable. Glas Data is positioned to support farmers’ and the industry’s transition towards more technology-based and sustainable practice.