One of the few silver linings to the Brexit clouds is the opportunity it gives the United Kingdom to experiment with different ways of supporting its farmers - and, judging by the herculean efforts needed to try to make the CAP agroforestry-friendly, those of us still in Europe may envy our British colleagues this opportunity!
In that context, DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, launched a consultation to try to find out how to encourage growing trees and forests in England, one of Europe's most deforested countries.
This was an opportunity EURAF's English members could not miss. Members of the Farm Woodland Forum in England sent individual responses, and its Executive Committee prepared a joint response tackling seven specific issues.
The Forum's response supports both the net zero target for UK agriculture by 2040 (already endorsed by the UK's NFU, the National Farmers Union) and the UK Climate Change Committee's target of 900,000 ha of new agroforestry, including hedgerows, by 2050. It recommends the adoption of an intermediate target for 2030.
Some of the recommendations (see here) draw on the results of the AGFORWARD project. For instance, AGFORWARD concluded that the wide range of support measures available for tree and hedgerow planting would benefit from being collated into a single place and presented under a heading of "agroforestry and trees on farms". Another recommendation is to help farm businesses (and clusters of smaller farm businesses) set up spatial carbon inventories tracking both soil and biomass carbon. This would help integrate agriculture and forestry in a common framework and support tree planting and management on farms. A seemingly small detail, but important for value chains, is its recommendation that farm woods should be included in the UK forestry standards in much the way that agroforestry is already included in the PEFC standard.
Finally, the woodland forum noted that in England, as in the rest of Europe, a deep divide still separates forestry and agricultural advisers, officials and regulatory agencies. There and elsewhere, whole farm audits should be designed to give farmers advice on where and how to establish which trees on their farms.
Ref. Kay, S., Rega, C., Moreno, G., den Herder, M., Palma, J. H. N., Borek, R., Crous-Duran, J., Freese, D., Giannitsopoulos, M., Graves, A., Jäger, M., Lamersdorf, N., Memedemin, D., Mosquera-Losada, R., Pantera, A., Paracchini, M. L., Paris, P., Roces-Díaz, J. V., Rolo, V., … Herzog, F. (2019). Agroforestry creates carbon sinks whilst enhancing the environment in agricultural landscapes in Europe. Land Use Policy, 83, 581–593.