New report calls for an agroecological economic recovery

In the wake of covid-19, the UK government are likely to implement fiscal measures and other types of policies to help get the country back on its feet. The Soil Association, along with Sustain and other partnership organisations, are calling for an agroecological food and farming future.

Credit: Miriam

Credit: Miriam

The Soil Association have proposed ten policy recommendations in their ‘Grow Back Better: A resilience route-map for post-Covid-19 food, farming and land-use’ report. These are framed around a ten year transition to an agroecological approach that helps tackle issues like climate change, biodiversity decline, public health concerns, low farm incomes, lack of rural jobs, and production of a diverse range of fresh and healthy foods.

In the report, the Soil Association suggests that ‘government should urgently set an economic and regulatory framework that allows farmers to plan confidently for a sustainable future. It should focus on a bold and honest ambition, recognising that farmers would rather plan for change than react to a moving target’. This is something which Sustain and other organisations have been calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to commit to.

Some examples of these policy recommendations include:

  • Halving pesticide use and increasing organic farming to 25% of farmed land by 2030;
  • Instigating a farmer-led tree planting revolution and building soil carbon sinks;
  • More farmer-led innovation and agroecological R&D and knowledge sharing;
  • Increasing the domestic production of fruit, vegetable, pulses, and nuts;
  • Setting ambitions targets to cut the amount of ultra-processed food in our diets; and,
  • Building resilient and regionalised supply chains that don’t cause deforestation.

Critics of agroecology suggest that this approach would reduce yields and increase imports, leading to the UK offshoring its agri-food environmental problems. However, a recent meta-analysis has showed that agroecological farming systems can boost ecosystem services while maintaining yields. The science behind agroecology has been building over recent years and this meta-analysis helps to bring this together.
Sustain has also published its own report on how the government can put good food and farming jobs at the heart of the economic recovery, with a call for investment that builds agroecology skills and knowledge, green and local agri-food infrastructure, better and shorter supply chains, and circular food economies. You can read Sustain’s report here.

You can read the full Soil Association report here.

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