Thoughts on True Cost Accounting, biological intensification, soil and ruminants

I shall start by discussing why it has been, and continues to be hard to make sustainable food production profitable. The key reason is the absence of what the Sustainable Food Trust are calling True Cost Accounting. By this we mean the way in which the range of costs and benefits arising from different farming systems, both negative and positive, are not properly valued or paid for, with the result that intensive farming is more profitable and products from those systems are more affordable than those from sustainable production.

In my talk I shall discuss the need to identify, categorise, quantify and eventually monetise the range of so called externalities arising from different farming systems. I shall then go on to review ways in which in the future, producers whose farming practices result in damaging environmental and public health outcomes could be made financially accountable for these costs, and conversely farmers who build natural capital, including soil and biodiversity, and produce healthy food with minimal pollution, could be properly rewarded for their efforts.

I shall discuss the need for a definition of ‘sustainable intensification’ and suggest that the only kind of intensification that is compatible with the principles of sustain-able food and farming will be biological and not chemical and explain why. Finally, I will describe some recent revelations which have led to a profound shift in my understanding about the central importance of building soil fertility and of the role of ruminants in sustainable food systems.


Theme: other
Published: 26th November 2014
Author: Patrick Holden