Food and farming fundamentally affect our lives. Around 70% of all the UK’s land is farmed in some way, and farming is responsible for 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions. What we eat and how we grow it impact our health and the environment. Overweight and malnutrition are obvious impacts, and so is how the landscape looks. High levels of poverty among agricultural workers is a less obvious but very real impact, as are polluted waterways and land, and biodiversity loss (e.g. declining numbers of pollinating insects).

As well as government policies that directly address food and farming issues, there are other policies that affect what we eat and how we produce it. Welfare is one area that people might not associate with food and farming. However, providing an adequate safety net for those who can’t work, and enforcing a living wage for low earners are key to making sure that everyone can eat healthily.

Another area that’s important for food and farming is trade policy. Making sure that the food we import into the UK meets high environmental, animal welfare and human health standards allows our farmers to compete on a level playing field and supports sustainable production and consumption of food.

One idea gaining public and government support is ‘public money for public goods,’ where farmers are paid for protecting or enhancing the environment, rather than receiving subsidies based on the size of their farm.

Loughrigg Fell in the English Lake District, United Kingdom

Campaigners argue that public money for public goods should go further than environmental goods and services. Farmers could also be paid for supporting healthy lifestyles and diets, paying agricultural workers a decent wage, growing food with higher nutritional levels, and reducing levels of antibiotics fed to farm animals.

To deliver these wider public goods, the government must ensure that food and farming policies are joined-up. Government departments responsible for health, trade, welfare, farming, education, the environment (and local communities, policing and business to name just a few more) need to understand how their policies impact on food and farming and make sure they support sustainable food production and consumption.

Here’s where we got our stats

70% of the UK’s land is farmed in some way


Insights & Opinion


Brexit, time to put society, farm animals and wildlife centre stage

Leaving the EU - an opportunity to set food, farming and land use on a different trajectory?

Helen Browning
6 Sep 2018

My vision for farming in post-Brexit Britain

The government must be unqualified in its support for the UK’s food supply chain.  

Minette Batters
9 Sep 2018
Long read

Could the new Agriculture Bill navigate us out of the mess?

New farm policy has the potential to provide a healthy, fulfilled and sustainable future.

Vicki Hird
5 Sep 2018