The Landworkers’ Alliance has called on the Government to increase tariffs on food imports after Brexit to protect the domestic market and make the UK more self-sufficient in food.
In its post-Brexit policy recommendations, launched outside Defra’s offices in Westminster, the group said the fact Britain only produces around 60 per cent of the food it consumes raises legitimate concerns about national food security.
It also claimed governments have been pursuing policies which resulted in farm consolidation, loss of agricultural jobs and rural-urban migration for too long – pointing out more than 9 farms a day were lost between 2005 and 2015.
“We believe we should not be dependent upon food imports from other countries who should be dedicating their best agricultural land to feeding their own populations”, the report read.
“Our position does not exclude importing food that cannot be produced here. We would suggest a common sense approach which encourages local and regional domestic markets to be as strong as possible in products that are key to our food sovereignty and then prioritises European imports before we encourage global markets.”
The alliance would also like to see a total ban on imports produced to lower standards and a commitment to exempt the sector from future trade agreements on the grounds food is a ‘basic human right’, not a commodity.
Other policy recommendations include allowing the Groceries Code Adjudicator to regulate prices paid to farmers and shelf prices.
“It is reasonable to assume if the GCA redirected a further 8 per cent of the food pound from the retailers to producers, then farm incomes could double as a result”, the report said.
For consumers on low incomes, the group suggests introducing food stamps which could be spent at farmers’ markets or on subsidised vegetable boxes.
On farm support, the LWA recommends abolishing area-based subsidies – which it believes have boosted the price of land, making it more difficult for new entrants to get a foothold in farming.
These would be replaced by a ‘Whole Farm Management Scheme’ (WFMS) which would involve one application, one monitoring procedure and one payment – capped at £150,000 to ‘help support a healthy mix of small and family farms’.
The scheme would be loosely based on existing stewardship schemes and administered using a points-based system.
Various different options would be open to farmers under the WFMS umbrella, including Countryside Stewardship, Farm Woodland Grant Schemes, Orchard Planting and Maintenance, Organic Payment and Maintenance and Mixed Farm Conversion and Maintenance.