Consumers have the power to change the marketplace and farmers should reach out to help educate them, says Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.
Since my last entry in this blog, the Agriculture Bill has been laid before Parliament and is now at Committee Stage.
I have just given evidence to the Public Bill Committee about the first part of the Bill which focuses on rewarding farmers for public goods.
There is still a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and what any future deal will look like, however the Agriculture Bill sets a positive vision for the future.
The draft Bill focuses on supporting farmers to deliver healthy soils and natural capital and improving the environment so that the land is kept in good heart for future generations.
The current direct payments received through the Common Agricultural Policy will stop after a lengthy transition period but will be replaced by Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) that I hope will be more flexible and supportive to farmers than the current scheme.
As it stands, the Bill sets a good direction, but the details need some further work. The Network would like to see some assurances from government that funding will be long term and reward farmers generously for the benefits they bring to the local environment.
Additionally, we have called for the Bill to set minimum environmental standards even for those farmers who choose not to engage with ELMS and to set high standards in future trade deals so that British farmers are not undercut by lower quality produce being imported from abroad.
We ask government to lead the way in supporting high quality and sustainable British farming by changing procurement rules to buy seasonal UK produce where possible.
For the first time in decades, agricultural policy will be set by the UK government after we leave the EU.
This is a great opportunity for farmers to get involved in the design of future schemes. We need to engage with both consumers and policymakers to drive positive change.
As the purchasers of our produce, consumers have the power to change the marketplace, and farmers should reach out to help educate them on the impact that their choices can have on the local environment.
Many consumers are disconnected from the production of food in this country and we need to help reconnect them, so they understand more about how their food is produced.
It is also essential that farmers who will be affected by the new Agricultural Policy being formulated by the government are engaged and involved in its design.
The Network would like to see the current support system rebalanced to ensure that all regions and types of farming are fairly rewarded for the efforts they make to protect and preserve the land.
The Nature Friendly Farming Network is working hard to make sure that farmers’ voices are heard throughout the Bill process.
If you share our vision and want to get involved, please have a look at our website and join the Network today.
Martin can be found tweeting at @LinesMartin