The Foundation of Food – why our new soils report is crucial

David Exwood

David Exwood

NFU Vice President

06 July 2022

An image of David Exwood inspecting the clay soil on his farm in West Sussex

Ahead of the launch of our new report, NFU Vice President David Exwood explains why we need a clear vision for soil health.

At a time when input costs are continuing to spiral, there is no doubt to me that good soil health is of fundamental importance to the agricultural sector. It underpins our productive farming systems, as well as delivering many wider benefits including sequestration and storage of carbon, regulation of water and nutrients, and resilience to climate change.

It is also of increasing significance in a wider policy context. Good soil health is recognised as a key measure in delivering the government’s Net Zero Strategy. Most recently, it's recognised as an important standard of the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) ELM (Environmental Land Management) scheme. We also anticipate that the government will consult on a Soil Health Action Plan for England this summer.

These are all good reasons why we are soon to be publishing our report, The Foundation of Food – our vision for good soil health. It sets out a clear vision for soil management to allow agriculture to anticipate and plan for food, fibre and fuel production and to deliver for the environment.

NFU vision for soil health

So what are we calling for? To enable agriculture to continue to be more efficient and to enhance soil health, we are calling for future government policies to facilitate action in a number of areas. These include:

  • incentives
  • research and development
  • knowledge exchange
  • robust data collection
  • new environmental markets.

Our report, which will be launched at a stakeholder roundtable event we will host on 14 July 2022, shows the proactive work farmers and growers are doing to improve soil health. It looks at the benefits of good soil management, and the challenges and opportunities that farmers face in protecting and enhancing our soil while producing climate-friendly food. 

Roundtable discussion

I will be chairing a roundtable discussion with a range of government officials, scientists, policy makers and NFU members to discuss the NFU’s vision and how we can work together to achieve this.

We need clear policies, seen through a broad lens, which account for the needs of farm businesses now and into the future.

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