Restoring Britain’s ‘least productive’ land can support farmers’ incomes and cut emissions, report says

Green Marine proposes that the majority of food be grown on the most productive land with limited use of fertilizers, while farmers reseed more parts of their land

New Green Alliance report says restoring habitat in the 10% of England classified as ‘least productive’ could help reverse declining bird population rates while tackling carbon emissions .

The Green Alliance has found that the least productive 10% of land produces around 0.5% of the food consumed in the UK. In response, the research suggests supporting farmers to restore nature to these lands. Green Marine says this would increase bird populations by around 50% by 2050 and increase farmers’ incomes in these areas by 20%.

The research argues that a different approach to land use would enable these increases alongside reduced emissions. Green Marine proposes that the majority of food be grown on the most productive land with limited use of fertilizers, while farmers reseed more parts of their land.

In addition, under the Landscape Recovery Program, of which only 2% of the budget has been made available, the least productive lands would be used to reclaim nature and reduce emissions.

This would require the UK government to meet existing nature commitments, rather than simply provide additional funding. Green Alliance says if the government allocated just under a third of the existing £2.4bn in budgets for rural payments, this vision could be achieved. Indeed, a £600million allocation to reclaim 10% of the English landscape would provide more sustainable incomes for farmers. In the longer term, it could provide more than half of the carbon savings needed for agriculture and land use by 2035.

Green Alliance senior policy adviser James Elliott said: ‘The government was looking to realize a real Brexit opportunity when drawing up new plans for agriculture, but there are now fears that we will go back to a climate-destroying European-style system or that we start a race to the bottom where both farmers and the environment lose out.

“It’s about making sure we make the best use of the least productive land – increasing farmers’ incomes while restoring nature and starting to tackle the increasingly destructive effects of climate change.”

Drought alerts

The research comes amid drought warnings for the UK, which will likely impact food production.

The UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology said this week that much of the UK could experience drought conditions well into the autumn, with rainfall and river levels expected to remain low in the coming months. come, especially in southern and central England.

Heat waves in regions such as mainland Europe and India have already reduced yields of some crops, including wheat, olives and rice, and the UK’s National Farmers Union (NFU) warns that the worst is yet to come and policy makers are not yet reacting adequately.

In June, the government released its Food Strategy, the first in a generation. The reaction was disappointing, with the majority of recommendations made by Henry Dimbleby, the expert reviewing the existing policy, not taken into account. Groups operating in the fields of agriculture, climate action, nature, nutrition and civil society have all expressed their concerns.

The Land Workers Alliance (LWA) was among the critics, calling the plans “the political equivalent of junk food”.

Today the LWA released a new set of recommendations for developing resilient and sustainable food systems in rural areas of the UK.

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