The APPG for Agroecology’s initial response to the Agriculture Bill’s Command Paper
The long-awaited Command Paper from Defra was published on Tuesday, and will be followed by the publication of an Agricultural Bill before the summer recess.
Obviously the APPG will want to have a full and detailed discussion of all that it contains, and give all APPG members and stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the proposals and raise any concerns. We will be pulling together a meeting to discuss the Command Paper soon. In the meantime please read our initial response below.
Kerry McCarthy MP, Co-Chair
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Co-Chair
The APPG Agroecology for Sustainable Food and Farming welcomes the focus in the Command Paper on a future agricultural policy based on “public money for public goods” and its refreshingly broad perspective on what constitutes a public good.
We particularly welcome the shift of subsidies away from area based payments and towards the delivery of environmental beneficial outcomes, such as increasing biodiversity and delivering improved air, water and soil quality, whilst protecting historic landscapes and encouraging rural resilience.
We also welcome the suggestion that targeted payments could be used to encourage farmers to deliver higher animal welfare outcomes in sectors where animal welfare largely remains at the legislative minimum, although this should not rule out future legislation that requires higher standards.
The Command Paper correctly acknowledges that agriculture often has a negative environmental impact through pollution and practices which lead to habitat and species loss, and that it makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. There are other important negatives that have been overlooked, such as the routine overuse of antibiotics and certain types of fertilisers on farms. It is crucial to ensure both the economic and environmental resilience of farms, which underscores the agroecological approach and will make the sector truly sustainable.
The section on the supply chain glosses over the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, and the Government’s recent disappointing announcement that the GCA’s remit will not be extended. And despite the Command Paper having “health” in its title, there is nothing in there on how to improve the dietary health of the nation, for example, through public procurement and increasing access to healthy food.
Though the Paper does refer to creating opportunities for the new generation of farmers to join the sector, we would like to see explicit support for new entrants with regards to high land prices and diminishing tenancy opportunities – both of which are major obstacles for young farmers.
We would like to see a greater emphasis in some areas – for example, there is little to no mention of agroforestry, horticulture, pulses, or the organic sector – but we generally agree with the direction of travel. We welcome the opportunity this consultation will provide for demonstrating the benefits of an agro-ecological approach to farming and land management.
Over the coming months the APPG will be holding meetings with stakeholders and officers to create a ‘wish list’ for the Bill, as well as making a submission to the consultation.