Knowledge for better food systems

Report from Sustain: Beyond 2020 - New farm policy

The UK NGO Sustain has published a briefing presenting principles and policies that it argues would deliver better food and farming when the UK leaves the European Common Agriculture Policy. 

Beyond 2020: New farm policy recommends that the next government should retain taxpayer support for farmers after Brexit, but replace the old two pillar EU system with a new four-part deal for farming based on payments for public goods, capital grants, free advice and wider policy measures to ensure farmers can thrive.

Key recommendations are that the next Government should:

  • Shift payments from large landowners and biofuel production to supporting resilient farming, nature and animals, help alleviate flooding, creating more rural jobs and growing our own healthy 5-a-day fruit and vegetables, supported by a new Land Management Scheme (3).
  • Consider making payments to farmers and land managers front-loaded, with Government tapering or capping payments to use taxpayers’ support wisely and ensure diverse farm businesses can thrive.
  • Back new enterprise including: new entrants into farming, smaller and diverse farms, agro-forestry and struggling sectors such as the fruit and vegetable one, and overhaul farmer training and advice so farmers can access the tools they need.
  • Adopt vital, complementary measures across government, such as extending the Grocery Code Adjudicator’s powers to ensure fair trading practices from supermarkets and their suppliers, keeping high standards, and requiring an increase in the purchase of local and sustainable food for public-sector organisations such as schools and hospitals.

Vicki Hird, Sustainable Farming Campaign Coordinator for the Sustain alliance, said:

Farming is a business but it is so much more. Our proposals recognise that farming provides wider public benefits including thriving rural communities, valued farm workers, good nutrition, a protected and nurtured environment and wildlife, and high animal welfare.

“The next Government has a once in a lifetime opportunity with Brexit to end some of the absurdities of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, which has not supported small and family farms well and which contributed to a loss of farmland diversity and wildlife. Our alliance proposals present a practical way forward and a basis that the Government could use for common ground between the industry, and those groups championing the rural economy, conservation, public health and development.”

The Sustain alliance emphasises that a focus on high volume, low standard production is a real risk, posed by a de-regulatory agenda and new international trade deals and emphasise that policies must also not harm farmers in the global south or lead to weaker standards.

Read the full report here.

You might also be interested in a recent blog-post about the future of UK farming policy after Brexit, published in The Conversation: The EU’s farming policy is hated – but what comes next may be worse.

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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