Farming News - Govt Food Strategy Signals a Return to a Better Balance Between Food & Environmental Security

Govt Food Strategy Signals a Return to a Better Balance Between Food & Environmental Security

13 Jun 2022

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has welcomed the new Government Food Strategy published in response to Henry Dimbleby’s Food Strategy Report, produced in 2021. The TFA believes it signals an important change of direction for Government policy which better aligns the needs for achieving food and environmental security.

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “The challenges that we have faced over the past few years including the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy price spike, have rightly caused the Government to rethink its policy for farming and the farmed environment. Having had several decades of relative calm, recent events have highlighted the vulnerability of our food supply system. It is particularly pleasing to see the Government put to bed the idea that domestic food production is not important to our food security - the new strategy makes it clear that domestic food production matters by giving us national resilience. The strategy also identifies that maintaining or improving domestic food production guards against offshoring food production to other countries where food is produced to lower carbon efficiency and environmental standards”.

“In confirming that the vast majority of the current public funding to the agricultural industry will be retargeted towards new farmer-based schemes to reward sustainable land management, rather than the much-vaunted vanity projects of tree planting and rewilding. The proof of the pudding will now be in the extent to which DEFRA is able to deliver these new schemes on the ground. True food and environmental security can only be achieved through a focus on schemes which promote land sharing as between food and nature, rather than removing land from agricultural use altogether. Trees have their place in the farmed landscape, particularly in field edges, as screening or in shelter belts but we shouldn’t be looking to sacrifice vast areas of agricultural land to broad acre tree planting schemes,” said Mr Dunn.

“Alongside the environmental targets the Government has previously declared, it has now committed to at least maintaining the current food production to supply ratio in respect of the foods that we can produce in this country. It would be good if this target could also be enshrined in legislation alongside the pre-existing environmental targets. Ensuring fairness within supply chains will be an essential component of meeting this target. We therefore welcome the intention to look at how the supply chain provisions already set out in legislation can be used to better effect. Equally, the challenges around access to skilled labour needs to be addressed and it is good to see that the strategy sets out ways in which the Government will address this by upscaling domestic labour and looking at where we will have a continuing need for migrant labour.

“Reforming the rules around public procurement of food to prioritise local production, protecting consumers and producers against imported food produced to lower animal welfare, environmental and carbon standards, and promoting and enhancing our export opportunities are also important components of this new strategy. Given that we have waited a year for the Government to respond, it is now vital that no further time is lost to ensure that these opportunities are taken.

“All of this is clearly a work in progress and we will work positively with Government in ensuring that the strategic goals set out in this White Paper can be delivered. However, we face a current crisis with the conspiring issues of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the associated price spikes in energy and other input costs. Farm businesses need to be assured of access to the necessary liquidity to get crops to harvest and livestock to market. They also need the confidence to know that the supply chain will provide an adequate return for the huge financial investment now required.

"This, in turn will provide the basis for the long-term resilience we need for the elements of the food strategy to be delivered. To achieve that now, we need the Government to allow the relaxation of competition laws so that the whole of the supply chain can cooperate to see us through the current, crisis conditions. Now is not the time for gamesmanship or profiteering,” he concluded