The Climate change Committee which provides the government with independent advice on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change released two key reports today which will have major implications for food and farming - on land use and on biofuels.
For too long agriculture policy has failed in its stated goals to protect farmers or stop harm arising from food production. We have the opportunity in the UK now to address these failings and ensure UK farm policy supports farmers in producing food whilst delivering public benefits like environment and nature, tackling climate change and other benefits. These are defined, somewhat loosely, as ‘public goods’. What seems less well understood is the need to protect public health via agriculture policy.
MPs were falling over themselves to show interest in farming during the six hour Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill on 10 October. The Debate ended with a vote on a Labour reasoned amendment on the Bill's lack fo reference to food security - a frequent comment throughout the debate. The vote was lost and so the Bill now goes to committee stage.
Three politically charged words sum up the problem of trying to assess whether the draft Agriculture Bill published last week will work: budget, duties and trade. Will there be a budget to do what it needs to deliver? Will any of the powers in the Bill mean anything if they do not need to be taken up? And how does any of this matter if we end up with a poor or ‘no deal’ with the EU and deals with other counties that undermine standards? All these are huge unknowns yet they may have deep impacts on whether the Bill delivers a better farming future. With those fundamental uncertainties in mind, and the fact that the Bill has its second reading on 10 October, the following are ten key questions about the Bill and our attempts to answer them:*
Sustain with SERA - Labour's Environment Campaign - and Wildlife & Countryside link (including WWT, RSPB, Woodland Trust, RSPCA and National Trust) are hosting an event at the Labour part Conference 25 September, Liverpool.
A draft of the first UK Agriculture Act for nearly 50 years (currently in Bill form) was published last week (12 September 2018). For the Sustain alliance, we have something to celebrate as it contains specific measures to achieve fairer trading and more sustainable farming.
Sustain joined thirty-four organisations, reflecting a wide range of food, farming, consumer and nature conservation interests in writing a joint letter to Defra’s Secretary of State, Michael Gove, asking him to take urgent action to save the UK’s network of smaller abattoirs, which are closing at an alarming rate.
Does a stranger having heart disease matter as much to me as one having tuberculosis? This was the challenge given at a recent mini-Inquiry at City University looking at whether some public health goals can be supported via new farm policy.
In February 2018 the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs commissioned an independent review of farm inspection and regulation. The purpose of the review is to identify ways to improve regulation to reduce burden on farmers and maintain and enhance animal, environmental and plant health standards.
In a new briefing out today (25 July 2018) the Sustain alliance makes the case for bringing in a new body in England to negotiate wages and better conditions for agriculture workers.
Policy work these days can be stifling; keeping you stuck to a desk, locked in meetings and shuffling around Westminster. It is only a matter of time before we hear news of Brexit fatigue or even burn out. The sheer volume of news and Bills and lobbying requirements makes it hard to go out and see what is happening in the field and talk to ‘real people’.
On publication today (6 June) of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee Report on The future for food, farming and the environment, Sustain’s Farming Campaign Coordinator, Vicki Hird, says
This half-day seminar, 11 July 2018, will examine the question: ‘Public health as a ‘public good’ from agriculture: How can we win support for this principle from UK policy makers?’
Secretary of State Michael Gove MP has said that the UK would accept US food standards “over my dead body”, in an interview with good food advocate Rosie Boycott at the Hay Festival, 2018.
Country Land and Business Associates (CLA) has proposed a new Land Management Contract for the payment for delivery of public benefits.
The UK Farming Roundtable has called on government to prioritise taking “every step to retain and protect a single market access for food, agricultural commodities, live animals and plant products throughout the UK”.
Ben Bradley MP has introduced a new Bill to parliament to create a network of wildflower corridors to help bees and other pollinators.
More than 44,000 responses were received on the Government’s ‘Health and Harmony’ proposals for the future for food, farming and the environment after Brexit, with at least one third estimated to have been generated by Sustain members.
The Faculty of Public Health, representing around 4,000 health professionals, has called on the government to recognise public health as a public good in farm policy.
An independent Farm Inspection and Regulation Review (England) is underway, commissioned by Defra.
A very useful compendium of food and farming evidence has been published by Defra.
Sustain has made it’s submission to the Defra Health and Harmony future farm policy consultation, drawing on the expertise of our strong and growing alliance. The moment feels historic.
Sustain provided written and oral evidence to the MPs' Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committeei Inquiry into the Government’s consultation: ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit.’
The UK pork industry is currently unsustainable both in economic and environmental terms. To create a sustainable UK livestock industry that can thrive, we need to return to the practice of feeding food waste to pigs says Christina O'Sullivan of Feedback: The environmental organisation campaigning to change the food system.
At the consultation event co-hosted with Sustain and DEFRA on 10 April 2018, Michael Gove, Defra Secretary of State urged people to take advantage of the Defra consultation on Future Farming to 'make it clear what you want’ saying “I want a food and farming policy that reflects what the people in the country want – higher standards and better outcomes.” and noted the need to “stop it being shaped by vested interests to imprint their agenda.”
DEFRA, in partnership with Sustain, is hosting a consultation event in London on 10 April to capture local and member viewpoints on its public consultation: ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment’
Book your ticket now for the Future of Farming conference, run by the Sustainable Food Trust and featuring talks by Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove and NFU President Minette Batters, among many others.
Government will enforce new rules for water use on farms in England from 2 April 2018. The regulations will aim to avoid water pollution and benefit farm businesses.
Defra publishes ten-week consultation on the UK's first major new farming legislation since 1947. Sustain's Farming Campaign Coordinator Vicki Hird gives an initial response to seeing a version of the consultation.
GM Freeze ask for help to challenge this trial of modified oilseed rape seeds.
Currently, farming is judged using a narrow and outdated definition of 'economic productivity' that does little to recognise the vital role of farming, and the costs to farmers, in conserving natural resources and our farmed landscape. Productivity and farm efficiency need to be redefined for the modern age, argues Sustain's sustainable farming campaigner Vicki Hird.
The much trailed environment plan has been anticipated in much the same way as the Stone Roses Second Coming. Although not five years in the making, there was still the suspicion that the plan was going to struggle to please the fans.
The rich debate about how we deliver new farming and land management support after we leave the CAP is getting interesting. As we anticipate the White Paper on a new UK Agriculture Bill in 2018 choices are presenting themselves. How will new schemes work out on the farm? How will decisions actually get made? The following are ideas for the discussion ahead.
An article co-authored by Defra's Chief Scientific Officer argues that better regulation is needed to control how pesticides are used and affect the environment at a landscape scale.
What should Labour fight for in the post Brexit farm policy era? We will be exploring this at an event on 24th September alongside SERA, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and The Land Workers' Alliance.
The Government review of the work of the Groceries Code Adjudicator was published today and suggests that the Adjudicator is working well and has any on-going problems in hand. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Margot James MP, must now take the next step and extend its remit to support farmers.
Pull down the pillars of the EU farm policy and create a strong future for UK farmers after Brexit, major alliance of food and farming groups tells next Government
Brexit has put the spotlight on migrant workers in the food chain and particularly on farm work. But serious problems with labour standards and inequalities in the food chain were evident well before June 2016.
If you had £200 to spend on food each year what would you spend it on? That is roughly how much each family of four spends on current subsidies for farmers and the food sector. Has anyone asked taxpayers how they want that money spent?
Read our response to the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee report on The Future of the natural Environment after the EU Referendum.
What’s up with farm incomes? New data shows total income for UK farming dropped 24% in 2014/5. With a farm sector already apprehensively anticipating Article 50 (triggering Brexit) and the major changes to food trade ahead, rethinking farm policy so that it is fit for purpose has to start now. To clarify things first, it may be worth re-examining some of the post-truth farm myths that were floating around in the referendum campaigns which may have swayed farmers and others in their vote:
Sustain, the Fairtrade Foundation, Traidcraft, Feedback and the National Farmers Union have joined forces to call for the Groceries Code Adjudicator remit to extend to farmers, to protect them from unfair trading practices by supermarkets.
The government recently decided to allow UK farmers to use bee-harming pesticides in their fields. Neonicotinoids, which have been banned in the EU since 2013 and have been linked to serious harm in the bee population, can now be used for rapeseed fields in certain areas of the country this autumn.
The Danish Food and Agriculture Ministry released statistics comparing antibiotic use in Danish organic and conventional pigs in response to a parliamentary question. Conventional pigs were treated with about ten times more doses than organic pigs - and for weaner pigs up to 20 times. In the UK, data on antibiotic use by species is not yet available but sales data suggests that use in British pigs and poultry is about 4 or 5 times higher than in Denmark. If UK organic pigs receive similar amounts of antibiotics as Danish ones, then the difference between UK organic and conventional pigs could be about 40 or 50 fold.
In response to the NFU's concern that the UK is 'losing ability to feed itself' (Telegraph, 22 February 2015), Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett commented: "The Soil Association shares the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) concern about the loss of agricultural land for food production, but this is not being driven by a huge increase in farmland being used for weddings! The main cause of the decline... is farmland being diverted to growing oilseed rape for industrial uses and fuel, and recently the huge increase in farmland being used to grow maize for energy production in AD units – both trends that the NFU sadly supports..."
Government scientists have reported the first-ever cases of livestock-associated MRSA in pigs in England. This is just weeks after scientists in Europe, where MRSA has been present in pigs for a decade, reported that the same strain of livestock-associated MRSA is evolving to become a serious human hazard.
A new EU report shows for the first time that farm animals account for about two thirds of all antibiotics used in 26 European countries. The joint report by the EU Food Safety Authority, the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that countries that use higher levels of some antibiotics in animals have higher levels of antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria from humans. Contact Vicki@sustainweb.org for full media release. Sustain is part of the Alliance to Save Our Antiobiotics
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