Agriculture: Sustainable Development

(asked on 12th April 2021) - View Source

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will publish any assessment he has made of the potential for organic and other agroecological farm systems to achieve the UK’s nature-based climate change targets.

Answered by
Victoria Prentis Portrait
Victoria Prentis
Attorney General
This question was answered on 20th April 2021

The Government is committed to take action to mitigate climate change and to adapt to its impact. Environmentally sustainable farming is fundamental to our new approach to England's agricultural system. We are introducing three schemes that reward the delivery of environmental benefits: The Sustainable Farming Incentive, the Local Nature Recovery scheme and the Landscape Recovery scheme.

The three schemes are being designed collaboratively with stakeholders. We are considering how more environmentally sustainable farming approaches, including organic farming and agro-ecological approaches, may fit within the schemes where these contribute towards the delivery of environmental public goods. While designing the three schemes, we are running tests and trials. The tests and trials will co-design the component parts of the schemes, while the scheme pilots will test the whole end-to-end process. Two of the tests and trials are looking at organic farming. While we do not use tests and trials to validate if specific delivery methods achieve particular environmental outcomes, the pilots will pay farmers and land managers for delivering environmental outcomes.

Defra plays a key role in supporting emissions reduction by providing scientific advice and evidence and all our publicly funded research is published as standard practice. Systems assessments of the role of organic and other extensified farming approaches in reducing greenhouse gas emissions have concluded that although such practices can reduce emissions at farm level, comparatively lower typical yields mean that, for a given level of demand, such systems do not consistently lead to reduced emissions compared to more conventional systems. Despite this, these systems can provide wider welfare and environmental benefits, for example through increasing biodiversity. The Government believes farmers are best placed to determine the best method of farming for their land and specific circumstances. While this is a private business decision, we encourage environmentally friendly farming through numerous routes which includes organics.

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