The Green Alliance has pleaded with the Labour Party not to ‘go soft’ on the public money for public goods approach to farm support set out in the Agriculture Bill.
The think tank’s executive director, Shaun Spiers, issued the call after Shadow Defra Minister Luke Pollard described the policy as a ‘nice idea’ which would not solve a number of fundamental issues with the food system.
Mr Pollard’s comments follow a commitment from the Labour Party last year to maintain some form of direct payment to encourage the production of ‘high-quality, nutritious food’.
Speaking at a Countryside Alliance fringe event at the Labour conference in Brighton yesterday (September 22), Mr Pollard said: “The Agriculture Bill made a big error in not really mentioning food.
“The public goods side is a nice idea. It was an interesting development, and if we are to leave the EU then a public goods approach is not necessarily a bad way of doing large bits of it.
“But the problem is the Agriculture Bill did not deal with food. It did not deal with food production, did not deal with food poverty and did not deal with the carbon intensity of food.”
Mr Pollard also revealed the Party would be publishing its long-awaited Food Manifesto this week, which will look at all these issues.
Though Mr Spiers welcomed the creation of a food strategy, he expressed concern about the Shadow Minister’s description of the Agriculture Bill’s approach.
“Public money for public goods is not just a nice idea,” he said.
“It was a really important re-framing of the purpose of agricultural support which was owned by and championed by [former Defra Secretary] Michael Gove.
“We are not convinced now Michael Gove has gone, that others in Government support it.
“And if the Labour Party appears to go soft on it, even in the normal hurly burly of opposition politics, we risk losing what was potentially a huge prize if and when we leave the EU.”