Farming UK


Land use: The Royal Society says that the government has overpromised.

A report from the scientific society The Royal Society says that the UK government runs the risk of “overpromising” limited land because of its multiple goals for farming, nature, and renewable energy.

It says that current policy goals could be met by 2030 in an area the size of Northern Ireland.

The report has been applauded by farming and forestry organisations, who claim it demonstrates the need for a UK land-use framework.

A government spokesperson stated that the framework would be released later this year.

The UK National Academy of Sciences’ report comes to the conclusion that current land use policies are “disjointed” and that more creative methods are needed to get the most out of our land.

“The UK does not have enough land for any of it to be non-productive,” said the report’s steering group chairman, Sir Charles Godfray, who is director of Oxford University’s Oxford Martin School.

“But when we say productive, we don’t just mean producing food but producing public good, as well.”

The government’s ambitious plans for the UK’s land include creating more homes and increasing biodiversity. It intends to:

increase woodland cover from 13.2 percent to 17% by 2050;
increase energy crops to 23,000 hectares annually by the middle of the 2020s;
conserve 30 percent of land for nature by 2030;
construct 300,000 new homes in England by the mid 2020s.

After looking over these promises, the academy came to the conclusion that in order to fulfill them, an additional 4.4 million hectares—two times as much land as Wales—would be required by 2050.

However, it has offered five suggestions for lowering this demand for land while still meeting the UK’s goals for the environment, food, and climate change.

One of these suggestions is to create land-use frameworks for each country in the UK to show landowners what their priorities are for their land.

At the end of last year, the Lords Urban Use Committee made a recommendation that the government create a land-use framework for England. This would make it easier for farmers, landowners, and land managers to make the best use of their land.

Emily Norton, head of rural research at Savills, said: “Every time the government sets a new environment target, the question is, where is that going to come from.

“There is going to be a lot of tensions and trade-offs, which is a reason why people keep asking for a land-use framework.”

The Climate Change Committee, the government’s independent climate adviser, came to the conclusion in 2020 that up to 16% of UK land would need to be released from agriculture in order to support efforts to combat climate change. Although approximately 72% of the land in the UK is currently used for agriculture,

One of the main problems with freshwater pollution is agriculture, which was responsible for 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

The long-awaited details of England’s payment scheme for landowners and farmers to reward them for environmental work and more sustainable farming practices were made public last week by the government.

However, the members of the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales (NFU), according to Tom Bradshaw, the NFU’s deputy president, are still unsure of where to direct their efforts.

Mr Bradshaw said, “Members have always followed government policy and we believe we can deliver environment targets, but right now we don’t know what the government’s priority is.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Our land-use framework, due to be published later this year, will help farmers adapt to a changing climate. More information will be available in due course.”

Better data on the various benefits of land, including its social, environmental, and health benefits, as well as its immediate financial return, could, according to the Royal Society, assist in this.

The report gives many examples of land that can be used for more than one thing, like agroforestry, which combines planting trees with farming. Trees can improve the structure of the soil and protect crops and livestock from the elements, potentially increasing crop yield.

The society praised the Office for National Statistics’ progress in acquiring knowledge of the UK’s land and stated that this needed to be expanded upon in order to improve data on soil quality, climate, ecology, and the social sciences so that “robust land-use decisions” could be made.

The non-governmental organization known as the Forest Stewardship Council applauded the report’s emphasis on “upskilling” and its focus on the broader benefits of land.

Tallulah Chapman, FSC communications manager, told the BBC: “There is a forestry skills crisis and there are currently not enough skilled professionals to support the expansion and complexity of the issue.”

According to Judy Ling Wong, honorary president of the Black Environment Network and a member of the steering group for this report, “schoolchildren cannot even name the jobs of the land-based sector” despite the government’s pledge to create green jobs.

“This is a critical missing element where we need to move very fast.”



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The declines in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their declines towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect for the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

Support our work today at and join in the solution!


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