Food and farming policies are crucial in helping farmers, growers and food manufacturers produce goods that are healthy and sustainable for people, planet and animals. But responsibility for food and farming policy in the UK doesn’t just rest with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Health, welfare, trade and education are just a few of many policy areas that should be playing an important role in helping the UK produce and consume healthy, sustainable food.
“Public money for public goods’ as a concept is becoming widely accepted. Farmers – stewards of most of the country’s land – may be rewarded for delivering public goods in the future.”
Alongside other food and farming NGOs, we have argued that public spending on subsidies, research or other support must be directly linked to public goods. We have also strongly argued that standards relating to animal welfare, environmental protection and workers’ rights must be maintained and strengthened in the UK – and not allowed to be undercut by food imports that are poor quality and have low standards.
We believe that UK food and farming should be built around excellence – farming excellence, plus excellence in environmental protection, food safety, standards of production and animal welfare, and treatment of workers in the food system. UK food and farming policy should be rooted in the notion of a race-to-the-top, not a race-to-the-bottom, but for this to happen progressive policies must be put in place.
We would like UK food and farming policies to be embedded within a broader sustainability and climate change framework – to ensure UK food and farming fulfils its obligations as part of both the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris climate change agreement. We also believe that UK food and farming sectors must support healthy, sustainable diets.
Our policy work has two main elements. Firstly, relevant policy work we ourselves lead includes scrutinising selected policy proposals relating to food and farming, reviewing whether they are likely to contribute to fair, healthy, humane and sustainable food systems. This involves inquiry sessions, with inquiry panels and expert witnesses, and assessments published using our food policy barometer tool. Our work also involves policy solution roundtables to identify alternative policy options that will deliver desired outcomes, as well as advocacy work to promote policy solutions that take an ‘all things considered’ approach.
Secondly, we want to transform UK food and farming policy by working with others through joint advocacy. Hence we actively participate in a number of influential alliances – including, but not limited to the UK Food and Poverty Alliance (with its linked End Hunger UK campaign), the Eating Better alliance (promoting ‘less and better’ meat consumption) and the Groceries Code Action Network (pushing for fair practices in food supply chains). We are also an observer of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.
One of the first reports written by the Food Ethics Council called for agricultural reform in the wake of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak of 2001. The report called for a ‘radical reappraisal’ of Government policy on agricultural practice.
Over the years many of our Business Forum events have explored different aspects of policies related to food and farming – from ‘Shaping Brexit outcomes’, which marked 200 days to go until Brexit day, to ‘Trust, technology and beyond certification, which considered how can we ensure values travel across the food chain.
As members of the Square Meal group, we presented compelling evidence for major changes to national food and farming policy, which helped shape the food and farming 2015 general election manifesto promises of one major political party.
Our work has been cited in key policy documents and Select Committee reports over many years. We were one of only two organisations named in recommendations in the House of Commons International Development Committee report on Global Food Security. We were cited in the House of Commons EFRA Committee on Food security: demand, consumption and waste. Our Food Justice report was included in a list of important research cited for the Foresight report on Food and Farming futures.
New farm policy has the potential to provide a healthy, fulfilled and sustainable future.
The proposed merger of Sainsbury’s and ASDA has implications throughout the food system.