Sustain / Sustainable Farming Campaign / Agricultural policy and trade

Environmental Land Management and the agricultural transition

The Sustain alliance wants to see an abmitious future farming policy landscape that can deliver a transition to agroecology.

We believe that a focus on high volume, low standard production would be wrong for UK farming, as would a relaxation of standards as a political trade-off for cuts in farm support.

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

Download our policy paper on the role of agroecology in Environmental Land Management

What will be recognised as a public good? And how would the Sustain alliance like to see public money invested into agriculture?

Public goods must include: climate change mitigation and adaptation; nature recovery; soil health regeneration; clean water and air; public access and education; public health.

A new universally accessible Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme that rewards farmers, growers and land managers for delivering public goods.

An approach that supports farmers into agroecology: organic, pasture-fed, agroforestry, intercropping, regenerative agriculture, permaculture and sustainable horticulture.

Payments which incentivise farmers to aim high in delivering multiple public goods through the synergies gained from whole farm system approaches.

Farming business that are economically sustainable and which create good livelihoods for existing farmers and new entrants of all farm types and sizes.

A new publicly funded advice system that is independent, trusted and innovative.

Sustain is working with others, such as Greener UK and Wildlife and Countryside Link, to help secure environmental and biodiversity measures as a vital part of the basket of public goods to be provided by farmers and land managers, supported with public money.

In 2018, the Sustain alliance with its membership, set out four key future farming policy strands:

A universally available Land Management Support scheme with a menu of outcomes, an organic scheme and a whole farm scheme. This would help boost agroecology farming systems (agroforestry, pasture-based livestock, and organic horticulture). There is a strong case for front loading and/or capping payments to use the support wisely.

Investment and capital for sustainable business and infrastructure with a focus on small and medium sized enterprises.

A publicly funded programme of free at the point of delivery advice and support for peer-to-peer advisory networks.

Policy framework reform including: maintaining and enhancing land-based regulations to prevent environmental harm; a strengthened and extended Groceries Code Adjudicator to protect farmers from unfair trading practices; 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 trade policies that promote these commitments.

Download our Beyond 2020 - New farm policy briefing

Sustain continues to champion public health as a public good – currently largely absent from the ‘public goods’ approach. Recognition of this could help pave the way for beneficial improvements to farming standards, investment of public money and publicly supported research and development.

How can our food system deliver public health benefits?

Read Vicki Hird's blog on public health as a public good

  • Farming for affordable healthier diets:
    • Increase horticultural production in the United Kingdom;
    • Financial support for agri-diversification away from produce used for ultra-processed foods; and,
    • Household food security through better wages and more secure employment.
  • Aim to eliminate the risk of food borne diseases (such as E.coli, salmonella, campylobacter).
  • Improve the nutritional profile of agricultural products sold as ingredients:
    • Less highly processed flour;
    • Less sugar;
    • Improve fish and livestock feed that creates healthier profiles of fatty acids;
    • Increase production of nuts in the UK; and,
    • More seasonal varieties of fruits and vegetables.
  • Cessation of the prophylactic use of antibiotics in livestock farming:
    • Financial support and knowledge sharing for better hygiene and animal welfare measures and related strategies.
  • Reduce of pesticide use, residues on food and exposure in the environment.
  • Tackle air pollution from farming:
    • Financial support for low emissions equipment and technology; and,
    • Better regulations that are properly enforced.
  • Actively promote access to countryside:
    • Increase support for educational farm visits;
    • Create more biodiverse green space; and,
    • Provide opportunities for people to enjoy the tranquility of nature and the outdoors.
  • Public procurement that prioritises fresh, healthy and sustainably produced food in schools, hospitals and other public sector institutions.

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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