2019 will be a critical year in the development of the government’s post-Brexit agro-environment strategy and, as part of this, the concept of ‘Public Funds for Public Goods’. But where does soil sit within this framework? Healthy soil is the farmer’s most important asset: vital for productivity and profit. It also mitigates against water and air pollution, enhances biodiversity, enhances flood prevention – and of course sequesters carbon, helping achieve the country’s climate change targets.
Attaching an economic value to this broad suite of environmental services is therefore a significant and timely challenge, and raises interesting questions: How can the private and public benefits of improved soil management be separated? What economic levers should be used to incentivise behaviour change? And finally, where does ultimate responsibility lie for achieving sustainable soils - what role for the farmer, the regulator and the government - and also the supply chain, agrochemical industry and even the investor community?