Species-rich grasslands are vital for biodiversity, and it is disappointing that so much of our country’s meadows and grasslands have been lost. I am reassured, therefore, that my ministerial colleagues are committed to protecting 30 per cent of our land for biodiversity.
I welcome the early roll-out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) from spring 2022. The scheme, which will eventually be open to every farmer in England, will support approaches to farming that deliver for the environment, such as actions to improve soil health, hedgerows and integrated pest management. I understand that the SFI will begin by offering two soils standards – an arable and horticultural soils standard and an improved grassland soils standard. Through signing up to these standards, farmers will be rewarded for management practices that improve soil health by improving soil structure, soil organic matter, and soil biology.
Further, I am encouraged that the Government’s landmark plans for a renewed agriculture sector will transform the way farmers are supported. The new system will be centred around incentivising sustainable farming practices alongside profitable food production. I welcome that at COP26, countries committed to transform agriculture and food systems. In addition, the UK led 45 governments in new pledges to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming. I am glad that the UK launched a £65m fund to help developing countries move towards more sustainable methods of agriculture and food production.
Finally, I welcome that the Government’s new Environment Act includes measures to protect biodiversity, with a new, historic legally binding target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.