New bank could fast-track sustainable farming

Government should set up a new bank to help finance farmers moving into agroecological or regenerative farming, report finds.

A new bank could fast-track a shift to sustainable farming by financing loans to farmers looking to move into agroecology or regenerative farming. 

That’s the message from a new report by the Food and Farming Commission (FFCC), which said proper investment in sustainable farming could address the climate and biodiversity crises, public health, domestic food security and the post-pandemic recovery.

The proposed new ‘Agroecology Development Bank’ could play “a distinct and specialised role in agricultural and rural transformation”, the report said, inspired by the success of the Green Investment Bank, which helped galvanise investment and training for the renewable energy sector. 

Pointing to its success in renewables, the FFCC said the same “bold stimulus” is now needed for farming.

The bank could be complementary to the British Business Bank, the newly established National Infrastructure Bank, the Scottish Investment Bank and Development Bank of Wales, the FFCC said. 

Former chair of Barclays bank and chair of the FFCC, Sir Ian Cheshire, said: “The UK leads the world in financial innovation, and this idea is one that builds on successful investment models in other sectors and internationally, as well as delivering against climate commitments.”

The proposed ‘Agricultural and Development Bank’ would fast track sustainable farming.

Agroecology, an umbrella term that covers organic, and regenerative farming are practices that work with nature and reduce harmful inputs such as pesticides. 

A switch to these methods could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 38 per cent, and potential to offset more with carbon sequestration, according to the report.

Underpinned by research from the study Ten Years for Agroecology, the report said that investment in these areas could be “game changing” for stimulating rapid change and attaining the UK climate goals. 

It is clear a transition to agroecology could help address multiple challenges; the climate and nature emergencies, the public health crisis and now a fair and green post-covid economic recovery,” said FFCC chief executive, Sue Pritchard. 

Despite the potential of agroecological farming, the report said there were considerable obstacles, including lack of finance and expertise, especially for young people, new entrants and tenant farmers.

It comes as the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) takes place in Glasgow later this year, alongside a likely focus on the UK as host government’s action to tackle the climate crisis.

“This report is exactly the kind of radical and practical idea that the UK government needs to develop in preparation for COP26,” said Cheshire. 

“This is a ‘win-win’ for the UK government – facilitating investment in farmers across the UK nations so that they can build successful businesses and help us meet our climate goals.”


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  1. Has anybody been farsighted enough yet to start sowing the seedlings and taking the cuttings, for all the trees that are suddenly going to be needed for the shade-and-fruit/nuts agriculture, shade-for livestock, hedgerows etc in a few years’ time? Not to mention for street shade as people wake up to the need for these in hotter summers?

    1. Farmers are thinking about it. Whether it’s agroforestry; planting strips of fruit trees to offer shade and also increase biodiversity, or silvopasture; integrating forests and trees into animal grazing. These are two very real and ready solutions to the problems of the horizon.

      Guy has been planting nut trees for a future market and increase biodiversity

      Tim Mead from Yeo Valley organic is converting 600 acres of forest into grazing areas to offer more shade to their dairy cows.

      However farmers are doing this completely off their own back. There is still very little economic imperative (and little to none government support) to do any of this, even though there is an ecological and practical urgency to do so.

      These projects are expensive and risky for farmers so it’s understandable that there hasn’t been huge uptake.

      Maybe the new subsidy system will go some way to bridge this gap; there’s been some noises from Defra recently about what they might entail:

      But my feeling is that not much will change while the economic system in action requires farmers to produce as much as possible for as little as possible to generate cheap food.

  2. I hope someone can answer Denby’s very pertinent question.
    Also, I would like to know how the bank intends to invest in farmers who are already heavily in debt. What guarantees could farmers be given re receiving a just and true return for their labours, in the face of the vagaries of politics, climate, international and national markets, Brexit and financial systems, so that the loans can always be repaid.

    1. The bank sadly is not in existence yet, hopefully the government will take on the recommendations of the FFCC proposal and make it a reality.

      However, the bank would also be an advice and knowledge hub for the industry. So hopefully there would be financial advice and support for struggling farmers.

      Because agroecology and sustainable farming requires fewer inputs (pesticides, fertilisers, expensive hybrid seeds), a wider uptake of these methods would hopefully mean less farmer debt.

      It’s interesting because farming traditionally has been a completely self sufficient industry, but farmer debt has soared since the green revolution in the 60/70s; the widespread use of industrial model of farming, heavy use of machinery, pesticide use, fertilisers, and expensive seeds adapted to this mode of production (It did however lead to explosions of yield increases).

      More self sufficiency and less dependence on agri-food industry is key for sustainable farming livelihoods, but will have an impact of yield. But yield isn’t everything!


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