The future of Britain’s post-Brexit food and farming system was addressed in a Parliamentary event hosted by Jeremy Lefroy MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agroecology for Sustainable Food and Farming. The APPG were joined by some of the UK’s most innovative farmers and food producers and organisations who spoke directly to MPs and Peers about the issues facing small, family, organic and agroecological farming today.
Following consultation with farmers and organisations the APPG produced an opinion paper and policy recommendations, entitled Farming Post appg-on-agroecology-farming-post-brexit-report
The paper highlighted many common themes facing our world today: food security, environmental protection, sustainable production, individual and sector-wide economic resilience. The paper outlines 14 recommendations outlined below.
The paper also acknowledged that agriculture, land use, food and energy production is a complex and interrelated system. It is not sustainable to single out just one objective – such as maximising crop or herd production for example – without also ensuring that the systems which deliver the increased yields meet society’s other needs, such as public and environmental health.
APPG co-chair Jeremy Lefroy MP presented the paper to DEFRA Minister, Lord Gardiner and said “The adoption of agroecological principles, policies and practices across all relevant departments of government will be key to building a 21st century food and farming policy that is economically rich and robust, while operating sustainably in the truest sense of the word.”
The APPG believes the UK now has the opportunity to take an agenda setting approach to its food and farming legislation and governance. Adopting agroecological policies would make the UK more self-reliant: enhance biodiversity, mitigate climate change, support small, family and organic farmers, and encourage much-needed new entrants.
The APPG on Agroecology wishes to thank the following organisations for their specialist input: Compassion in World Farming, Innovative Farmers, the Land Workers Alliance, the Pasture for Life Association, the Real Farming Trust, the RSPB, the Soil Association, the Wildlife Trust, and the Woodland Trust.
It wishes to note that the final briefing reflects a collective opinion and not necessarily the views of any one organisation. The policy recommendations cover the following areas:
- Subsidy alternatives to the Common Agricultural Policy and incentives
- Biodiversity and farmers in the role of countryside stewardship
- Labelling and consumer clarity
- Animal welfare
- Food and consumption patterns
- Food security
- Valuing all forms of farming expertise
- Capacity building Defra to tackle a post-Brexit landscape
About the Farmers in Parliament event:
Farmers in Parliament 2016 featured 10 farmers, and food and farming NGOs from a diverse assortment of farms around the UK. All sectors of the food industry were represented from dairy to traditional mixed farms, organic and community growing initiatives. The exhibitors illustrated the variety of ways in which agroecological, sustainable farming and food production may achieve financial viability. Over 30 MPs and Peers attended during the two hour event, including DEFRA Minister Lord Gardiner, Shadow Food and Farming spokesperson Rachel Maskell MP, Neil Parrish, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee and the Officers of the APPG.
The APPG thanks the following organisations, exhibitors and farmers:
- Anthony Curwen, Managing Director of The Quex Park Estate, with the RSPB
- Elizabeth and Tony Bown New Holland Farm, Orkney, with Pasture for Life Association (PFLA)
- Felicia Ruperti, OrganicLea, London, with the Land Workers Alliance
- Fidelity Weston, Romshed Farm, Sevenoaks, Kent, with the Wildlife Trust
- Ian Boyd, Cotswold Hill Farm, Gloucestershire, with Pasture for Life Association
- Jane Sweetman, Director of Plotgate Community Supported Agriculture scheme, Somerset, with the Real Farming Trust
- John Hill, Hills of Edingley, Newark, Nottingham, with Pasture for Life Association
- Liz Bowles, Pedigree Sheep, Devon, with Soil Association
- Lou Dudley, Broadclyst Community Farm, Devon, with the Land Workers Alliance
- Lucy Otto, Care Farm, Worcestershire, with the Land Workers Alliance
- Lynne Davis – Street Goat, with the Land Workers Alliance
- Martyn Bragg, Shillingford Organics, Devon, with the Woodland Trust
- Peter Stevenson, CIWF
- Sam Henderson, Whippletree Farm, Exeter, with the Real Farming Trust
- Tim Downes, The Farm, Longnor, Shropshire, with the Woodland Trust
Examples of issues explored at the event include:
- Farm Practice: Pasture raised livestock: cutting down on input costs (fertiliser, pesticides) and vet bills, thereby also restoring soil fertility, raising livestock humanely, and producing healthy meat. Micro-dairies: introducing diversity on to the farm (and into the rotation, thereby adding fertility, etc); shortening the supply chain and selling directly to the customer/local shops and cafes so that a herd of 17/18 can provide a living for two or three farmers
- Access to Market: Reducing the length of the food supply chain so that more money goes into the pocket of the farmer. Co-branding: this allows farmers to share the time spent on direct sales at farmers’ markets, etc; bee-keepers sharing equipment and selling under the one brand, directly to the customer.
- Cross-subsidy: Adding processing enterprises on to the farm to add value to the produce, EG charcuterie, cheese-making, bread-making. Currently the farmer only receives 8-10% of the value-added. Diversifying into other income generating enterprises such as a business park.
- Sharing the Risks of Farming: Community-supported agriculture where the customer becomes a part of the enterprise and shares the risks as well as the benefits of local food. A number of models are being developed in the UK. They can be producer-led, community-led, producer-community partnerships, or community owned farms.
- Access to Farmland/New Entrants: Share farming, land partnerships for new entrants to start farming. Some are run as incubator projects whereby the new entrant moves on to set up their own enterprise after two-three years on the farm