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A credible and accessible certification programme is now essential to protect the ‘regenerative’ claim from misuse and exploitation says Wayne Copp, executive director of A Greener World (AGW) Europe and a North Devon livestock farmer.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you cannot have missed the growing coverage of ‘regenerative farming / agriculture’ in the media. While not a new concept (after all, humans have been using ‘regenerative’ practices for thousands of years), ‘regenerative’ is the latest farming buzzword — and about time, too.
Here at A Greener World (AGW), we’d go so far as to say that the collection of practices described as regenerative could have huge potential to put the brakes on — and even reverse — many of the negative impacts of intensive agriculture.
What has this got to do with regenerative? A number of regenerative programmes and initiatives have sprung up across the world. Some highly considered and commendable, others vague and questionable. We’re now seeing ‘regenerative’ used across social media and the farming press, while a growing number of food manufacturers and retailers are co-opting the word.
If regenerative farming is ever to achieve its true potential, we must legally define, validate and certify that farming systems using the regenerative claim truly are regenerative. We must ensure the individual farm is progressing towards building healthy, biologically diverse soils that produce healthy food while enhancing the environment and the farmer’s livelihood. Regenerative certification programmes must also be accessible to farms and holdings of all sizes and shapes and backgrounds — and not just become yet another ‘elite club’ for a handful of farms producing artisan food for a well-off minority. We need change at scale.
Although we’re a relatively new farm certifier in the UK and Europe, A Greener World (AGW) has been certifying globally for many years, and now operates across four continents, working with over 6,000 farms managing three million acres. Our family of farm certifications includes Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW.
Our newest addition — Certified Regenerative by AGW — is an exciting and timely development, offering a whole-farm, plan-based programme that will measure real change on farm to benefit soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure, animal welfare and social responsibility. But we know every farm is different. That’s why we ran an 18-month pilot scheme with farmers across four continents to ‘road test’ our procedures. The pilot is now coming to an end and we’ll soon announce the first certified farms — including our first farms in the UK — before opening the programme to all.
Certified Regenerative by AGW complements — and arguably enhances — any existing organic certification. While people often assume organic principles are ‘regenerative’, organic standards do not require benchmarking of things like soil health, water or air quality, or wildlife species / habitats, social fairness, nor measurement over time to ascertain improvements (or otherwise). This is not a criticism of the organic movement, who have pioneered environmentally sensitive farm management and helped to raise public awareness. It’s simply that these key aspects are not benchmarked or measured under organic certification.
In a post-Brexit world, we know trusted farm certifications like ours will become increasingly important, particularly as consumers seek out British meat, dairy, eggs, cereals, fruit and veg, and make ‘better’ food choices. In this context, the regenerative claim represents an opportunity to create real change at scale and to reconnect food producers and the public in a fair, respectful and transparent way.
The need to achieve consensus among stakeholders about regenerative baseline standards and core procedures for certification is now overwhelming. If we fail, we will not only have handed another gift to the marketing ‘greenwashers’ but we will have wasted what may be the last opportunity to rebuild our soils, restore and protect our waterways, ensure the highest levels of animal welfare, and achieve fairness for both farmers and consumers.
To find out more about Certified Regenerative by AGW for your farming or growing business, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01271 320715.
This article first appeared in Devon Live.