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'Put farmers in driving seat' in transition to sustainable UK food system

A ’radical’ 10-year plan is being proposed to transition the UK to a more sustainable food system post-Brexit and ’put farmers in the driving seat’. 

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'Put farmers in driving seat' in transition to sustainable UK food system

The Food, Farming & Countryside Commission (FFCC), set-up by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), today (July 16) sets out a ’blueprint’ for the UK’s food, farming and countryside system.

 

It warns that the Government must act now to help food and farming cope with climate change, and calls for its plan to be embedded across rural policies, putting the countryside at the centre of the green economy.

 

The commission, which is led by Barclay’s UK chairman Sir Ian Cheshire alongside senior figures across the industry and civil society, warned:

 

"The UK will see further climate breakdown and ‘rocketing’ diet-related ill-health unless it completely transitions to a sustainable and healthy food system by 2030."

 

The report, ’Our Future in the Land’, proposes a 10-year transition plan to agro-ecological farming by 2030, and calls for:

 

  • The Government to stop delaying policy and trade decisions and commit to a future-proofed transition plan to agro-ecology by January 2020.
  • Increased commitments from public bodies to buy more sustainably produced British and local produce for schools, hospitals and prisons.
  • For retailers and processors to do more to offer fair and secure contracts to farmers and growers, supporting co-ops for smaller producers to work together.
  • The Government to coordinate policy efforts which support investment in infrastructure, skills and new enterprise.
  • To change how the countryside is funded, by tying this to public value, and a ‘national land use framework’.
  • A National Agro-ecology Development Bank (NADB) to bring together long-term investors to fund farmers to transition. 
  • Using young people’s enthusiasm for tackling sustainability issues through a ‘National Nature Service’ for 18-25-year-olds.

 

“Our planned exit from the EU creates a once-in-50-years opportunity to change our food and farming system,” said Sir Ian Cheshire.

 

"But we need to act now: whatever happens next, the climate emergency makes urgent, radical action on the environment essential.

 

“We could make radical change and harness farming as a force for wider economic, public health and environmental good. We offer Government our shared vision which changes our countryside and rural economy and puts farmers in the driving seat.”


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In response to the report, NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts said: “While we need innovative thinking and ambition, it is important that policy makers recognise the difference between the way food is produced in Britain - with the animal welfare and environmental standards that goes with British farming - compared to food and environmental standards delivered elsewhere.

 

"That is why we advocate our grassland farmers producing climate-friendly beef and lamb and why we are leading the way with our plans for farming to be net zero by 2040.

“If we are serious about our nation’s health, we need to avoid blunt tools to solve complex problems and instead the Government needs to invest in quality, affordable, domestic food production as a strategic priority.”

Helen Browning, Soil Association chief executive and a member of the commission, added: “This hard hitting report sets out what is at stake – ultimately humanity’s ability to survive - and what needs to be done over the next decade to set a different course.

"We must put health at the heart of our food and farming systems, to mitigate and adapt to climate change, reverse the biodiversity crash, and enable rural communities, including farmers, to thrive. It requires major investment, and a sea change in the ways all sectors work together."

Royal Agricultural University vice-chancellor Prof Joanna Price said: “The report is refreshing, because as well as being frank about the scale of the problems we face it is a strong vote of confidence in farmers, land managers, and all of us in our communities, to solve them.

"We strongly agree with the Commissioners that farming can be a force for positive change and that rural communities can thrive as a powerhouse for a green economy."

 

The FFCC is a two-year independent inquiry, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Separate plans for the devolved nations will be published in the coming months. 

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