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Sustain Brexit Alliance meetings

2019, January: Brexit Room at the Oxford Real Farming Conference

The Oxford Real Farming Conference was the biggest yet with over 1,000 delegates and more sessions than ever. Sustain organised the Brexit Room and was involved in a number of conference events. 

On 3 and 4 January 2019, Sustain led five one-hour sessions at the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) as part of our coordination of the Brexit Room, and contributed to three more. We gave a platform to specialist Sustain members and helped generate debate and media coverage around key elements of post-Brexit food and farming policy, important to health and sustainability. Sustain-coordinated sessions were:

  • The Agriculture Bill: Exploring the good, bad and the ugly of the bill and the politics. Contributors: Tom Lancaster, RSPB; Stephen Briggs, Farmer; Vicki Hird, Sustainable Farming campaign, Sustain. This lively session was reported in Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian and a soundcloud and video may be available shortly here
  • Brexit Marketplace: Four sustainable farming themes that need our attention: Environmental Land Management (Jenny Phelps, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group); GM Food and Farming (Liz O’Neill, GM Freeze); Animal Welfare (James West, Compassion in World Farming); and Pesticides (Nick Mole, Pesticides Action Network).
  • Brexit state of play for food and farming. Contributors: Kath Dalmeny, Sustain; Vicki Hird, Sustainable Farming campaign; Tom Lancaster, RSPB and Greener UK; Kerry McCarthy MP. Soundcloud recording of the session.
  • Fishing, Brexit, and issues faced by the small-scale industry: Sustain’s Sustainable Fish Cities project and the New Under-10s Fisherman’s Association co-hosted the ORFC’s first session to focus on fishing, which was warmly received. Soundcloud
  • Green Brexit: holding government to account (hosted by Soil Association). Speakers: Ludivine Petetin, Viviane Gravey, academic researchers working with Soil Association. Soundcloud and notes

Vicki Hird, Kath Dalmeny and Ruth Westcott contributed to sessions organised by others:

  • Stop the County Farms Sell-Off (organised by Guy Shrubsole, author of: Who Owns Our Land?). Speakers: Guy Shrubsole, Friends of the Earth; Vicki Hird, Sustain; Carys Roberts, Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR); Mark Walton, Shared Assets.
  • Our Common Ground: Shaping the future of our food, farming and countryside (hosted by RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission). Panellists: Sue Pritchard and Sir Ian Cheshire, director and chair of the Commission; Helen Browning, Soil Association; Kath Dalmeny, Sustain; David Fursdon, Beeswax Dyson Farming. soundcloud
  • A People's Food Policy: Transforming our food system (organised by the People’s Food Policy group). With panellists and facilitators: Kath Dalmeny, Melanie Fryer, Kay Johnson, Elise Wach, Elizabeth Westaway, Deirdre Woods. soundcloud

A recording of many sessions are or will be available here and those that were filmed will be available shortly.

Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove also participated in the ORFC, as part of the Brexit-focused activities. He took part in a one-hour question and answer session chaired by Kerry McCarthy MP of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology, which was informative and provoking in equal measure. His speech ‘down the road’ at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) touched on many issues that Sustain works on, and feels like an important indication of the direction of travel for food, farming, fishing and environmental policy:

Sustain’s Kath Dalmeny and Vicki Hird were also invited to a roundtable and lunch with Michael Gove during the Oxford Real Farming Conference, which was a useful opportunity to reinforce key sustainable farming issues including on the Environmental Land Management Scheme which will be a central part of post Brexit farm policy.

Kath Dalmeny also continues to serve as a Commissioner on the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission hosted by the RSA. To understand what challenges the food industry, farmers, and the countryside face, the Commission and the support team at the RSA have reviewed hundreds of policy proposals, hosted expert discussions, and some have cycled right round the UK to meet people in their communities. In October 2018, the Commission published its major progress report, and a summary is here. Events to share the findings of the cycle tour are due in the new year.

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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