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Sustain Sustainable Farming Campaign

Food, Farming & Countryside Commission

The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, coordinated by the RSA, was launched in November 2017 to consider how we can achieve a safe, secure, inclusive food and farming system for the UK, a flourishing rural economy and a sustainable and accessible countryside. 

The two-year long Commission aims to help make the case for change to build a fairer food and farming system, ensuring a sustainable future for the UK’s countryside.

Four Sustain alliance member organisations are represented on the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission: Faculty of Public Health; Green Alliance; National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI); and Soil Association; as well as Sustain itself – with Sustain’s Chief Executive Kath Dalmeny serving as a Commissioner.

The launch of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission coincided with the UK looking to overhaul its food policy as it is set to leave three separate but overlapping European institutions which have underpinned the UK’s policy for the last 40 years:

  • The European Union and its Common Agricultural Policy - which sets the framework for farming subsidies and sets standards in food regulation and environmental protections.
  • The Single Market, which also enables the free trade and distribution of food produce and free migration of workers. EU-born staff represent 20% of the permanent farming workforce and 90% of the seasonal workforce harvesting fruit and vegetables.
  • The Customs Union, which places a shared tariff and quotas on goods like New Zealand lamb or American soy beans to participating countries, from areas outside the bloc.

The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire. He leads the Commission’s work on what a new system could look like: protecting standards and securing food supply; reforming public investment and the livelihoods of rural communities, and making the most of any new trading opportunities.

The two-year programme, supported by the RSA in a secretariat capacity, will:

  • Develop a mandate for change for food, farming and the countryside for the UK.
  • Shape a food, farming and countryside system that is fairer, and aligns more closely with UK population's expectations and values.
  • Demonstrate how national policy can achieve change at local level.

Read Sustain chief executive and Commissioner Kath Dalmeny's comments on early deliberations of the Commission, in relation to farming, rural economies and health.

Sustain served on the steering group that helped with establishment of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, working with others to help the RSA develop the proposed programme, which they now coordinate.

The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is financed via a major two-year grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, which aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. The Foundation does this by funding the charitable work of organisations who are building an inclusive, creative and sustainable society:

Sustainable Farming Campaign: 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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