Committee chair, the Labour MP Mary Creagh, said: "Soil degradation could mean that some of our most productive agricultural land becomes unprofitable within a generation. The government wants to see all soils managed sustainably by 2030, but their current actions will not be enough to reach that goal."
The report says the UK's soils "have seen a worrying decline in carbon levels since 1978", warning that such degradation "leads to increased carbon emissions and contributes to climate change".
At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference the Government signed up to a scheme to increase soil carbon levels by 0.4 per cent a year, but according to the committee: "Methods to increase soil carbon are well understood but not implemented to their full potential. The government must set out specific, measureable and time-limited plans to meet the goal to increase soil carbon."
It said part of the failure to meet this commitment came from weaknesses in cross-compliance rules tying farm payments to soil health, pointing out: "Crucial elements of soil health, such as structure and biology, are not assessed at all. The rules are accompanied by a minimalistic inspection regime which Defra aims to reduce further." It urged the government to "increase the scope, force and ambition" of the scheme.
It also called for an end the "double subsidy" of maize growing for anaerobic digestion, saying: "Revisions should either exclude maize from the (renewable energy) subsidy altogether or impose strict conditions on subsidised maize production to avoid practices in high-risk locations which lead to soil damage."
And it called for Defra's upcoming 25-year environment plan to "place soil protection at the heart of environmental policy", saying: "We must move away from viewing soil merely as a growth medium and treat it as an ecosystem in its own right."
The Soil Association said it was "delighted" by the report, which it said endorsed its calls for a clear target for increasing soil organic matter, protecting lowland peat, and ending what it called the "destructive effects" of maize growing.