News update, August 2019

Sustain has raised with members of PM Boris Johnson's new Cabinet our alliance's key concerns and policy priorities for better food, farming, fishing, health and the environment. We sent letters to the new PM, Chancellor and Secretaries of State for Defra, health, welfare and international trade: read our letters and priorities here. There is no official movement expected anytime soon on the crucial Agriculture Bill, Fisheries Bill and Trade Bill.

Sustain is working with the main food aid providers and food poverty groups to lobby the Government to guarantee to support vulnerable adults and children in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Government has set aside £4.2 billion for no-deal planning, with the Chancellor allocating more over the past week; we are calling for this to include a no-deal Brexit food hardship fund to help those most in need, in the event of food price rises or disruption to supply. Our joint letter was covered yesterday in the Huffington Post.

With the political rhetoric around no-deal Brexit really hotting up, we welcome the astute – yet alarming – account by the Institute for Government on the state of no-deal Brexit preparedness, as well as the warning from Food & Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright that no-deal Brexit will cause ‘mortal damage’ to food and farming (not least if you are a British lamb…)

Never a dull moment: We are also keenly aware that a General Election could be called at any time. So we are dusting off the Sustain alliance’s Manifesto for a Better Food Britain, aiming to make sure that healthy and sustainable food are centre-stage for all of the political parties in the busy season ahead. If there are things you would like to see prioritised, or if you have contact with any of the manifesto writers in political parties, please get in touch.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since our last news update. A few recent items reported below – we’ll keep you updated as we hear more. Please do keep on sharing insights – much appreciated.

Kath Dalmeny
Chief Executive, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming
www.sustainweb.org
@UKSustain

Sustainable farming


RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

The UK must completely transition to a sustainable post-Brexit food system by 2030 or face further climate breakdown and the continued rise in diet-related ill-health, according to the final report of the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, for which Sustain’s chief executive Kath Dalmeny serves as a Commissioner. The report, published on 16 July, has a strong agro-ecological narrative and clear recommendations for action.


Oxford Real Farming Conference, January 2020

Oxford Real Farming Conference, January 2020 is seeking submissions for session ideas. The deadline is Friday 9 August 2019. Please complete this online form. If you haven't sent in your exhibitor expression of interest for 2020, the form is now live on the website: http://orfc.org.uk/orfc-2020/info-for-exhibitors/. Sign up to the ORFC newsletter for updates about the conference: http://orfc.org.uk/newsletter-sign-up/


Food Research Collaboration interviews with farmers

Human health should be priority of agriculture policy” is the conclusion of Food Research Collaboration research, for which farmers were interviewed to hear how they can champion public health.


NFU urges new PM Boris Johnson to ensure orderly Brexit

In a letter to new PM Boris Johnson, the National Farmers Union has highlighted five additional policy priorities for the new government:

  • Stimulating farm business competitiveness and innovation through policies that ensure British farming is a leader in its field and result in a more resilient and advanced sector.
  • Rising to the challenges of tackling climate change through concerted government effort now to put in place the policies to help deliver the NFU’s ambition to reach net zero by 2040.
  • Promoting our high food standards through trade policy, building a globally recognised British Food Brand and ensuring our high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection are not undermined by trade deals that allows imports of food that would be illegal to produce in the UK.
  • Ensuring an adequate supply of labour by delivering a future immigration system that is fit for purpose and recognises the specific needs and challenges of agriculture and horticulture.
  • A long-term budgetary commitment for food and farming through a new agricultural policy that rewards farmers fairly for delivering public goods, supports stability and resilience, and provides funding that recognises the long, multi-annual timeframes farmers and growers operate to.


Change of Defra leadership

In one of his last moves as Secretary of State for Defra, Michael Gove set out the government’s ambitions for the Environment Bill in a summer policy statement, including commitments to legislate on environmental governance, air, biodiversity, water, and waste and resource efficiency. With the election of PM Boris Johnson, Michael Gove now moves to no-deal Brexit preparations. New Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers has made some helpful comments about the need for robust regulatory bodies, and has personal commitments on waste and reducing single-use and micro-plastics. At time of writing, her position on the Agriculture Bill, public money for public goods and action for climate change is still not clear. George Eustice MP, Therese Coffey MP and Zac Goldsmith MP have been appointed as Defra Ministers.
 

Impact of no-deal on food for vulnerable people


Ministers challenged to guarantee food for vulnerable people in the event of a no deal Brexit

As featured in Huffington Post on 31 July, food banks, homeless hostels and domestic violence refuges are among the services that may struggle to provide food for vulnerable adults and children as a result of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, food aid providers have warned the government, in a letter coordinated by Sustain, the food and farming alliance.


New select committee to link public health, inequality and sustainable food

A new House of Lords select committee has been established to link public health, inequality and sustainable food. The Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment has been instigated by committee member Baroness Rosie Boycott, long-term friend and colleague of Sustain and one of our patrons. It will be chaired by Sir John Krebs, former head of the Food Standards Agency. Sustain looks forward to supporting this important cross-departmental inquiry.

 

Environment policy, including climate and nature emergency


Greener UK risk tracker highlights green policies at high risk of being weakened

In the latest instalment of Greener UK's Brexit Risk Tracker, all policy areas remain at high risk of being weakened.


Marching for our food and our climate

Note the date: The 2019 Good Food March which will be on 5 October with workshops beforehand. An early website is here https://www.goodfoodmarch.org/ 

On 26 June, the Greener UK coalition by joining forces with The Climate Coalition to host a parliamentary mass lobby, dubbed The Time is Now: 12,000 people from over 95 per cent of constituencies descended on parliament to meet their MPs and call for urgent action to address the climate and wider environmental crisis. This made The Time Is Now the largest environmental lobby of parliament in history!

Leadership hopefuls urged to take action  on climate change
Greener UK and The Climate Coalition co-ordinated joint letters from 43 organisations to the political leadership candidates, referencing political demands of the mass lobby, including:

  1. A flagship Environment Act with ambitious legally binding targets for air, water, wildlife, waste, and our global footprint – and a powerful independent watchdog to make sure these are achieved
  2. Rapid action to phase out fossil fuels and slash emissions, to get us on track to net zero by 2045 at the latest
  3. Increased investment to tackle the climate and environmental emergency, fairly and democratically, including government spending of at least 2% of GDP per year for climate action and restoring nature, both at home and abroad, starting now
  4. Putting environment and climate action at the heart of the UK’s international agenda, and ruling out signing trade deals with countries that are not implementing the Paris Agreement or upholding human rights and environmental standards

These points are explained in more detail in this booklet.

 

Civil society groups warn of secrecy clauses in Environment Bill

The Campaign for Freedom of Information is coordinating civil society groups to object to secrecy clauses in the Environment Bill that will replace current UK environmental legislation after Brexit. Under proposed rules, the new Office of Environmental Protection established by the Environment Bill would no longer have to justify secrecy by proving that such secrecy is in the public interest. Sustain is co-signing a letter to new Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers, objecting to this proposal. Read more of the technical and legal detail here. If you want to sign on, please write to admin@cfoi.org.uk by Monday 5 August.

 

Food standards and international trade

No-deal Brexit will cause 'mortal damage' to food and farming, says industry body
Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation, has told Parliament that a no-deal Brexit will cause 'mortal damage' to the food and drink industry. He was asked about it by BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme.

Food standards should be maintained in the event of a future US/UK trade agreement consultation, public tells the government
The UK’s current food and product standards should be maintained and not negatively impacted by a free trade agreement with the US, respondents to a Department for International Trade consultation have said. This included ensuring that any FTA with the US supported “Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) provisions and high levels of animal welfare protection”.

A no deal Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ and could lead to food that is illegal in the UK being imported into our markets, the NFU has warned
In a television interview with Sky News, NFU President Minette Batters warned that farmers did not want to see food that would be illegal to produce here being introduced to UK markets and undermining standards.

China continues to restrict the sale of US pork due to safety concerns
China is in the grip of an outbreak of African swine fever, which has pushed up their wholesale pork prices by a quarter since the start of March, reports Bloomberg. US pork producers spot ‘the single biggest sales opportunity’ in their industry’s history but blame Chinese tariffs of 62%, imposed during the latest trade disputes between the US and China, for making their product uncompetitive.

Channel 4 exposé questions the safety of American chicken
An undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme last month revealed dangerous practices at a US chicken factory and raised fears of low standard, possibly contaminated meat being part of a future US/UK trade deal.  

Supermarkets say no-deal Brexit would lead to rotting Christmas dinners
Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda warn that a 'no-deal' Brexit on 31 October would be 'as bad as it gets' with fresh food rotting in ports in build up to Christmas.

 

Key parliamentary dates

The Commons is now in summer recess, there are no confirmed dates for key Brexit legislation, and a General Election could potentially be called at any time. Here are some dates to help navigate:

  • 27 July - First day of Commons summer recess
  • 3 September - End of summer recess; first day back in the Commons
  • 12 September - Estimated start of conference recess
  • 14 to 17 September - Liberal Democrat Party conference
  • 21 to 25 September - Labour Party conference
  • 29 September to 2 October - Conservative Party conference
  • 4 to 5 October – Plaid Cymru Party conference
  • 4 to 6 October – Green Party conference
  • 9 October - Estimated end of conference recess
  • 13 to 15 October – Scottish National Party conference
  • 17 to 18 October - Final EU Summit before EU Exit Day
  • 31 October – EU Exit Day; also deadline for Article 50 extension

Sustain is contributing to several party conference activities, either with briefings, speakers or co-hosted fringe events.

Brexit

We stand at a cross-roads. When the UK leaves the European Union, will our leaders uphold good standards for our food, farming, fishing and trade deals? And will they agree a sensible deal with the EU? We need to make sure that they do!

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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