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Farmers must work harder to communicate impact of dietary choices post-Brexit

Farmers need to make clear to the public what the positive and negative impacts of their dietary choices are to ensure the industry can continue to survive post-Brexit, says Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

The public have had their say and the General Election last week returned a majority Conservative Government to Westminster.

 

So, our withdrawal from Europe is now set for the end of January, but this is just the first step to completely leaving the EU.

 

The UK will have less than 11 months to complete future trading arrangements before the end of 2020.

 

And these future trading arrangements with Europe and the rest of the world could make or break the UK agriculture sector.

 

Now, more than ever, we must bring together farming, conservation and research organisations, as well as the public, to ensure our high standards in farming are not undermined.

 

Imported

 

We must not allow food to be imported with standards lower than the UK’s for food production, the environment and animal welfare.

 

The UK farming sector is proud of its standards, and yes, we could do more, but if we are undermined with imports below our standards, as an industry we cannot compete.

 

For the UK to have the most positive impact on our global environment, the climate and animal welfare, we need to export our high standards by only importing goods which meet our criteria.

 

Sadly, we continue to see UK farming getting bashed in the media, with a greater focus on meat production both here and in the rest of the world.

 

Change

 

As many people change their diets for animal welfare or climate reasons, we need to show the public and the media the different ways food production happens globally.

 

I support the ‘less and better’ concept, but we must get the positive message out about what the better is:

  • Less over-processed food full of artificial ingredients and reduced nutritional value
  • More locally-sourced seasonal produce
  • Less corn and soybean-fed red and white meat
  • More meat from landscapes which deliver wildlife, environmental and climate benefits
  • Less food waste
  • More produce with as low a carbon footprint as possible

As public interest in what people are eating increases, we will have a greater opportunity to demonstrate what UK farmers can deliver.

 

There is a real need for farmers to increase their engagement with the public to explain the true environmental impact of their food choices.

 

We need to make clear the positive and negative impacts our dietary choices can have on food standards, our environment and our climate, not just in the UK but around the world.

 

Importing

 

For example, importing large quantities of fruit and vegetables from around the globe can have devastating effects on the environment and water resources.

 

On Brexit, whether you voted in or out, it is clear next year will be very important for our industry, with many key decisions being made in Westminster and by the devolved Governments.

 

It looks like we’ll see new Agriculture and Environment Bills return to Westminster in the new year, which will set the framework for farming support and environmental rules in the future.

 

And with representative bodies around the UK declaring a climate emergency, we need future farming policy to help UK agriculture be part of the solution.

 

Our long-term food security can only come from healthy soils and a healthy environment.

 

Flexibility

 

The public money for public goods model in England and Wales needs enough flexibility for farmers to deliver public goods while also producing high-quality food, delivered to a fair market place.

 

The public are asking and expecting farmers to deliver different things than we did in the past.

 

We can and must adapt, improve and work together to meet the changes we will all face in the future.

 

I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

 

Martin can be found tweeting at @LinesMartin

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