With the current existential threat of the coronavirus pandemic, we must ‘pause for thought’ in considering our future policy for food and farming outside EU rules and regulations, says George Dunn, Tenants Farmers Association chief executive.
One of my often-used mantras is as we develop new policy frameworks for the post Brexit transition era, it is vital we do so well rather than just quickly.
As we get our hands on policy levers for the first time in half a century in the context of devolved Government within the United Kingdom, we must give ourselves time to make a success of these new arrangements.
It is a pity then DEFRA continues to stick rigidly to its 2021 transition but it is good to hear the Welsh Government will be taking time to consider the best approach once it has got through the May 2021 National Assembly elections.
The current existential threat of the coronavirus pandemic should also give us pause for thought as we consider our future policy for food and farming outside of the rules and regulations of the European Union.
While Governments over the world are rightly taking draconian measures to control the spread of the virus and reduce its impact, thought needs to be given to how we rebuild and restructure in the long term through learning the lessons of the past and ensuring that we are more resilient to similar risks in the future.
The received political and economic wisdom of the 1980s and 1990s was, in itself, globalisation ensured growth, prosperity, security and resilience.
It was such adherence which led the then Labour Government to state in a joint HM Treasury/DEFRA publication ‘domestic production is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for food security’.
It was considered possible to import our way out of any food security problem.
While globalisation has certainly brought benefits, it has also presented us with some problems not least in respect of the impact of carbon emissions through global transport networks, widespread biodiversity issues as we offshore our environmental costs through importing products without adequate consideration of the standards to which they are produced and easy conduits for global disease spread.
Recently, the Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis MP said by insisting imports of food meet our high animal welfare and environmental standards, it could be dangerous for our maintaining our food security.
However, food security is more than about quantity, it is also about quality.
If our standards are important for the health and well-being of our citizens, then they should be applied equally to food which is imported as to food which is produced within our own shores.
Social commentators suggest that because the benefits of globalisation have been unevenly shared across societies, it has encouraged, in many parts of the world, the rise of popular nationalism including, perhaps the election of the current USA President.
It has also been suggested the 2016 vote by the UK to leave the European Union was at least, in part, energised by a real sense that the benefits of membership of the European Union had failed to trickle down adequately into the households of voters up and down the country.
Moving forward, it will be important to get the balance right and with the Agriculture Bill currently proceeding through its Parliamentary stages, we have the opportunity to put in place the right strategic framework that allows the benefits of globalisation to be garnered while we deal with the potential downsides through ensuring that we do not simply rely upon the free market to deliver the outcomes that we desire as a nation.
You can find George tweeting at @georgewdunn