News & Updates: Summer 2019
Thank you for your continued support for the Sustainable Soils Alliance. As well as forging on with our policy work over the last quarter, we've taken the opportunity to expand in to new projects and areas of interest - and also bring you news from the wider soils community.

After working closely with Defra on soils’ inclusion within the government’s Environment Bill and 25 Year Plan for the Environment, we were pleased to see our advice reflected in the 25 YEP progress report published in May and to be referenced as a key party in the development of soil indicators for the Plan’s associated framework.

We responded to two government consultations, the first for Defra on agricultural tenancy reform and the second for the Environment Agency on Flood & Coastal Erosion. We have further responses in the pipeline: check back to our political engagement page for details as and when these emerge.
We submitted a Freedom of Information request on the total public spending on soil health monitoring in England compared to air and water. We're currently analysing the figures to better understand the implications for nationwide soil health and help us argue for increased investment in soils.
We were pleased to receive two letters of endorsement from government, one from SOS for Defra Michael Gove and another from Greg Clark, SOS at BEIS. Both thank the SSA for their work to date and pledge to continue working to improve soil health within the remits of their departments.
We had a helpful and informative meeting with officials from the DEFRA Environmental Land Management (ELM) team where we learnt more about ELM’s evolution, the opportunities it creates for support for soil improvement and other initiatives relating to fairness in the supply chain, technology and fertiliser policy.
We submitted a parliamentary question in June via our champion Rebecca Pow MP requesting further clarification on whether soil would be considered a public good eligible for public money post-Brexit. Read our question in full and the response from Farming Minister Robert Goodwill here.
And finally, we collaborated with the Environment Agency on their recent State of our Environment: Soil report, launched at the inaugural meeting of the Devon & Cornwall Soils Alliance. Read our reflections on the report and soil in policy here. We have a close working relationship with the EA, and look forward to collaborating on the regulatory framework to replace CAP cross-compliance, relating to soil cover and erosion regulations post-Brexit. We recently joined the EA South West team in Devon for a practical, eye-opening and educational soil health field day which the team thoroughly enjoyed.
We continue to examine the impact of the UK supply chain, and especially major retailers, in driving soil health, and recently published a webpage examining some activities of the major supermarkets in this regard – from farmer training activities to investment in up-stream research.
We attended the recent joint-NFU/Sustainable Food Trust Conference Farming & Climate Change: Towards Net Zero emissions, a fascinating day full of engaging speakers and discussion. More details including presentations, videos and commentary on the SFT website here. We were pleased that NFU-President Minette Batters endorsed our ELMS proposal, submitted in collaboration with Yeo Valley, as the type of zero carbon test/trial Defra should be pursuing as part of agricultural reform; and also that soils were such a central focus of the day, as summed up by Minette:

‘We have a focus on soils now that we’ve never had before. This is critical for the balance between high yield & environmental outcomes.’
We welcome Our Future in the Land, the final report from the RSA’s Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, and would like to congratulate SSA advisor Sue Pritchard for sterling work in her role as FFCC Director. The report makes clear links between the health of people, the environment and rural communities, and includes tangible actions to be taken in the next 10 years alongside stories of best practice and positive change in the accompanying Field Guide for the Future. We were delighted to partner with the FFCC on their soil health project in Lincolnshire, and also to be referenced in the report.
We were heartened to see soil given such a focus in the recent Conservative Environment Network Manifesto – including the explicit description of healthy soils as a public good. As ever, we can thank SSA parliamentary champion Rebecca Pow for her tireless work impressing soil’s importance upon her party colleagues and beyond.
SSA Director Nev donned his alternative hat of long-standing tree expert as founder of the Ancient Tree Forum / Treework Environmental Practice to present at the Baumpflegetage in Augsburg earlier this year. More on the German Tree Conference and access their yearbook of Arboriculture here.
We continue to be members of the BBIA Food Waste Coalition whose recent conference on the Future of Compostable Packaging took place in June. Visit the BBIA site here to access all presentations from the event, including those on plastics, vegware, AD & energy, and much more.
Read our latest articles: The quest to bring soil health to Westminster elaborates on the SSA journey so far in our efforts to engage the public and policy-makers on the issue of soil health, as published in Riverford’s blog Wicked Leeks; and Defragmenting UK Soils Policy, our contribution to the Sectormentor for Soils blog, focuses on the trials, tribulations and occasional triumphs of working with government to achieve sustainable soils.
And it’s time we stopped treating soil like dirt: We contributed to a video produced by the Guardian summing up why soils are so important and what can be done to support and restore them. Footage from our launch event was included alongside friends and supporters from Durham and Sheffield Universities, the Soil Association and the Campaign for Rural England.
We’re currently in the process of embarking on our first foray in to commercial sponsorship, partnering with a company whose products are intimately connected with soil health. The sponsorship will be officially announced in September - watch this space!
We’ve been accepted as members of the 1% for the Planet network: a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support solutions for the environment through annual profit shares and everyday actions. Find out more and view their Not for Profit partnership directory here.
We’re thrilled that our first official fundraiser, a dinner and ‘audience with’ event at Yeo Valley HQ, sold out in just a few days! We’re looking forward to hosting 120 guests including the great & good of soil health, environment and ethical consumerism alongside such stalwarts as Burges Salmon, Triodos Bank, Tesco and many more for what we expect to be a characteristically lively talk from Sir Tim Smit [Eden Project] accompanied by locally-sourced drinks and produce. We're so grateful to Knepp Castle, Riverford, the Ancient Tree Forum, Peter Gabriel and others for donating auction prizes, to Pukka for providing teas and Weleda for goody bags – as well as everyone else who is so generously supporting this venture! If you’d like to contribute a prize, make a donation, or be involved in any other way, please get in touch. 
To keep up to date with soil news from around the UK and further afield check our events calendar, follow us on twitter @soilsalliance and watch out for our Week in Soil update, published every Friday morning without fail. Have some news or a soil-related event to share with our community? Email
With all thanks and best wishes from the SSA team,
Ellen, Matt, Nev and Ursula 
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have donated to the SSA. We're extremely grateful for all donations, large and small. Click the button to help us grow.
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