There is ample evidence that policy needs to do more to ensure British farmers can deliver a sustainable, healthy, ethical food system.

Our farming and food system are in trouble: from adverse health effects, lost farmland wildlife and diversity, animal health and welfare issues, to a crisis in farm incomes, rapid decline in smaller and family farms, and damage to the global environment.  

As we leave the Common Agricultural Policy, we should take the chance to fix these problems.

Download Sustain’s Response to the 2020 ELMS Policy Discussion Document and our 2018 briefing Beyond 2020: New farm policy, top-line summary

We have consulted with our Sustainable Farming Working Party and more widely, and believe the following principles should underpin future farm policy when we leave the European Common Agricultural Policy.

We believe that a focus on high volume, low standard production would be wrong for UK farming, as would a relaxation in standards as a political trade-off for cuts in farm support. Further, we believe that it is high time that policy-makers work with a broader and more sustainable definition of farm productivity, and that policy should be devised with due regard for public health as a public good.

New devolved farm policy should be based on a strong commitment, supported by taxpayers and a well-regulated market, for sustainable, resilient, nature friendly farming industry that can deliver healthy diets for all, ensure safe food and high animal welfare and which minimises negative global impacts.

Financial and other support must be targeted and based on the principle of public benefits for public investment. It should deliver diversity in production and farming and be underpinned by effective regulation and enforcement, based on the precautionary principle, to protect people, the rural economy, environment and livestock. UK trade deals must not undermine the delivery of this vision in each devolved administration and should enable other countries to deliver their food sovereignty.

The four policy strands the Sustain alliance proposes include:

  1. A new, universally available Land Management Support scheme with three elements: a menu of outcomes; an organic scheme; and a whole-farm scheme. Specific LMS strands would be available to boost agro-forestry, extensive pasture-based livestock, horticulture; new entrants and succession planning. There is a strong case for front loading and/or capping payments to use the support wisely;
  2. Sustainable business, capital and infrastructure support with specific help for smaller businesses;
  3. A new publicly funded programme of low-cost advice and support for a farmer-to-farmer advisory network;
  4. Wider policy framework reform including: maintaining and enhancing land-based regulations to prevent harm; a strengthened and extended Groceries Code Adjudicator to protect farmers from unfair trading practices and policies to encourage retail diversity; maintaining organic legal standards; labelling regulations to drive up demand for food based on higher standards; reforms to tenancy rules; strong labour regulations to value farm workers and enhance employment and re-employment; high public procurement standards and delivery; and trade policies that promote these commitments.  

Sustainable farming policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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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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