Calls on government to double farm budget if nature is to have future in UK

The Soil Associations’ Head of Policy, Rob Percival, called on the government to double farm budgets to support regen farming in the UK, as he addressed almost 1,000 visitors at the award-winning regenerative farming event Down to Earth North last week.

During his keynote address at the one-day event in Cumbria, session chair and RABDF Vice Chair Robert Craig asked Mr Percival what his message to the government would be as local Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson was listening in the audience.

“Double the farm budget if you want nature to have any future in the UK. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

Mr Percival added: “We have the mechanics of a new farm payments system in place, we have an enormous growing groundswell of will and appetite among producers to change what they are doing and be more regenerative, but the money is not there, and the money the government is putting into the scheme is inadequate.

“It will drive us in the wrong direction and deepen the nature and climate crisis,” he warned.

Mr Percival explained why he felt regen farming was at the ‘cutting edge of modern agriculture’ and how it was time for farmers to regain power.

“There’s no one correct way of doing regen; it is adaptive, responsive, context matters, and there’s no one template that fits. It’s the outcomes that really matter,” he said.

“It’s a process of experimentation within the water cycles, nutrient cycles, natural pollination, and so on, producing food within the natural landscape while building natural capital. I want this outcome focussed outlook on regen,” Mr Percival explained.

Mr Percival said the view that focuses on the outcomes rather than the practices was helpful as it brought into view the models of land use and the types of farming which are not regenerative, such as grazing cattle in the ashes of the Amazon. “This is not regen; they are focused towards extraction rather than regeneration.”

He blamed large, multinational corporations for driving outcomes not in the best interest of nature or for farmers adding how a ‘a great deal needed to change’.

“Where these outcomes manifest is not the fault of the farmer, but of the supply chain that’s loaded with cheap fossil fuels and drives expansion.

“The consolidation of power in the hands of the corporations is part of the problem we need to address through this groundswell of energy around regen farming.

“We need to put the power back in the hands of farmers and citizens and make sure farmers are paid a fair price for doing nature-friendly stuff on the farm.

“It’s not rocket science, but we do need to address the politics of the system to make it happen,” he concluded.