Radical ambition needed for UK food and farming | Horticulture Week

This article first appeared on Horticulture Week after the APPG’s Green Brexit session, you can view the original post here.

Britain can only deliver a “Green Brexit” and become the “environmental superpower” government has promised if there are radical changes to UK food and farming policy, according to the Soil Association.

The Setting the Bar for a “Green Brexit” in Food and Farming report, launched on 10 June in Parliament, sets out how the UK can become a world leader in nature-friendly farming and go further than those across Europe – regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

The report examines claims by ministers that the UK could have a greener agriculture policy outside of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including those by Michael Gove in January this year that the UK could become an “environmental superpower” post-Brexit.

Through this report, launched at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agroecology, the Soil Association hopes to hold government to these claims and highlight a previous lack of ambition in UK food and farming policy.

It finds that while the UK has been a pioneer in developing incentives for environmentally friendly farming via agri-environment schemes, other European countries are ahead in key areas.

Agroforestry integrates trees and farming in France, supply chain legislation is fairer for farmers in Spain, and the Danish public sector is on track to be 60% organic by 2020.

In contrast, the report highlights that the UK has no target for organic food in public procurement and agroforestry is yet to be effectively incentivised, despite its well-known potential for climate resilience, productivity and soil health.

Gareth Morgan, Soil Association Head of Policy, said: “Farming has huge potential to be part of the solution in tackling the climate, wildlife and diet crises we face. Government has promised a “Green Brexit” but ambitious domestic policies are required to achieve this. With other European countries already ahead of the UK in key areas, it’s clear that current and draft food and farming legislation does not go far enough.

“For example, in Copenhagen 90% of food procured in key public institutions is organic, which has led to an increase in organic farm land, thanks to tough government commitments. But in the UK, we have no such targets at all – if other countries are not being held back by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, nor should we be.

“Becoming the “environmental superpower” government has promised is achievable, regardless of what happens with Brexit, but only if we make radical changes to support a transition to agroecological farming and healthy, sustainable diets.”

The report was launched in Parliament in a debate with farmers and politicians about the changes that will be needed to secure more environmental food and farming policies.

Report recommendations for government to achieve its promised “Green Brexit” include:

  • Integrating legislation on climate, biodiversity, soils and diets to deliver ambitious long-term targets to protect natural resources.
  • Developing a 10-year agroecology transition plan supporting whole-farm approaches like organic and agroforestry.
  • Commitment to long-term funding beyond 2022, and ensuring trade deals protect high UK standards, to allow farmers to invest in an agroecological future.
  • Investment in independent farmer advice, collaboration and training to embed sustainability in UK farming, with agroecology in the agricultural curriculum.
  • Develop local food and farming infrastructure and supply chains to support nature-friendly farming.