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Agriculture: Sustainable Development

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL7155, tabled on 21 March 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the emphasis on sustainable farming initiatives will be rebalanced in view of the current rise in (1) food costs, (2) fuel, and (3) fertiliser, to secure an increase in food production in this country.

Answered on

6 April 2022

We have a highly resilient food supply chain which has coped well in responding to unprecedented challenges. Our food import dependency on the Eastern Europe region is very low, so we do not expect any significant direct impact on UK food supply. Farmers are facing a number of challenges, including rising input costs. We are already taking a number of steps to support British farmers, including ensuring they have the workforce they need through our seasonal workers scheme, and informing policy through the establishment of the UK Agricultural Market Monitoring Group. On Thursday 31 March, we held an industry roundtable chaired by the Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, to look at the issues faced by the fertiliser industry and the impact on farmers. Alongside this, last week, we announced steps to assist farmers with the availability of fertilisers to address uncertainty among growers and keep costs down for farmers. This package of measures included delaying changes to the use of urea fertiliser by at least a year; revised and improved statutory guidance has been published on how farmers should limit the use of slurry and other farmyard manure at certain times of year. Farmers will be further supported through new slurry storage grants as of this year, helping meet the Farming Rules for Water and reducing dependence on artificial fertilisers by storing organic nutrients until needed or for onward processing. We also published further detail on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) which will help farmers move towards sustainable farming practices over time, supporting farmers to build the health and fertility of their soil and to reduce soil erosion which are essential for sustainable food production, helping to bolster food security and the longer term resilience of the sector.

We believe food production and environmental protection go hand in hand; they are two sides of the same coin. That is why the SFI will open for early rollout of core elements of the scheme in summer 2022, to allow us to make the first SFI payments before the end of the year. We are planning to introduce a Nutrient Management Standard to the SFI in 2023 that will reward growers who make better use of naturally occurring sources of crop nutrients. Given current fertiliser prices, the priority must be to pioneer new technologies to manufacture more organic-based fertiliser products, and rediscover techniques such as using nitrogen fixing legumes and clovers as an alternative to fertiliser.