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. 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.
Our policy work has two main elements. Firstly, relevant policy work that 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 holding space to explore 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 Hunger and Hardship group, 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.
In May 2019 we launched our Food Policy on Trial event series, as a way of a way of encouraging constructive debate about possible policy ideas relating to food and farming. Designed to explore selected emerging food policy ideas, we run ‘food policy on trial’ sessions, usually twice each year.
At these inquiry-style sessions expert witnesses provide evidence and are then questioned by both a Food Ethics Council jury panel and members of the audience. Those attending can make their own considered judgements of whether the policy idea ‘on trial’ is likely to contribute to or hinder progress towards healthy, fair, environmentally sustainable, humane food and farming.
To date, policy ideas to have been put ‘in the dock’ have included specific food policy ideas like meat taxes and plain packaging on junk food and drink, as well as economic policy ideas as they relate to food and farming, including Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism and Universal Basic Income. Crucially, we do not start from the premise that these are necessarily a good or bad thing. We critically explore the merits and pitfalls of these ideas and come to our own judgement, opening it up for others to do likewise.
Our Food Policy on Trial series is kindly supported by Polden Puckham Charitable Foundation. With thanks also to Lindy Sharpe from Food Research Collaboration for her invaluable input in helping design this series.
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.