Trade and Agriculture Commission membership announced

Credit: Gov.uk

The Commission represents farmers, retailers and consumers in the UK, advising Government on trade policies to adopt to secure opportunities for UK farmers

Gov.uk Press release – 10 July 2020

Retailers, farming unions, consumer, hospitality and environmental bodies from across the UK have been named as members of the Government’s new Trade and Agriculture Commission.

It will be chaired by food safety expert Tim Smith, a former Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency and Tesco Group Technical Director.

The English, Scottish and Welsh branches of the National Farmers Union (NFU) are all represented, as are the Ulster Farmers Union and the Farmers’ Union of Wales. Other members include the British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality, and the Food and Drink Federation.

It will report directly to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Read more…… 

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Microplastics distribution: The disease and pollution of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.

A particularly large collembolan (almost 2mm long) found in an oak forest in Ireland. Soil collembolan species are typically much smaller, paler, and might not have eyes. Together with microbes these animals help elements like nitrogen cycle between plants and soil.              Credit: Tancredi Caruso – Author

Microscopic animals are busy distributing microplastics throughout the world’s soil

King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, lies 120km, about a day’s sail off the northernmost tip of Antarctica. It’s a rugged place – home to seals, penguins, a few scientific bases and not much else. Though the climate is mild compared to the mainland, temperatures still barely reach above freezing in the summer months and the island is almost entirely covered in ice. If microplastics can enter the food web here, they can probably do so almost anywhere on earth.

But this is exactly what colleagues and I discovered, when we searched for microplastics inside tiny creatures found on King George Island. Our results, now published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, show that microplastics are becoming an integral part of the soil food web.

Microplastics are pieces of plastics smaller than a few millimetres, and usually much smaller than that. These bits and pieces break off from the hundreds of millions of tons of plastics that are produced each year, and collectively form a huge amount of waste. And, as plastic degrades only very slowly, it has dramatically accumulated in the environment, everywhere from the deepest ocean floors to the North and South poles.

Read the full article: https://theconversation.com/microscopic-animals-are-busy-distributing-microplastics-throughout-the-worlds-soil-141353

 

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Whole farm and organic systems are being ignored in post Brexit farm support plans

Organic farming

WHAg Window – giving a view from our perspective…..

The Agriculture Bill currently moving through Parliament is supposed to lead to a new farm support scheme based on the idea of paying “public money for public goods”.

This approach will replace the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy where farmers’ income is supported by the taxpayer – in some cases up to 60% of farm income.

Health though isn’t included and neither, as thing stand, are whole farm and organic systems – at least not in England.

Scotland and Wales get it but not England

Possibly farming for health is too difficult an idea for policy makers and officials to grasp at the moment, but the fact that organic farms are excellent at delivering “non-market goods and services” such as biodiversity, soil protection, flood protection, habitats and landscape is well established, so why is this not being recognised?

It’s not even a novel idea. Organic farming has benefited from its own distinct arrangements in all the farm support schemes, in all parts of the UK, since the middle of the 1990s. The organic option under the most recent scheme (Countryside Stewardship) is generally recognised as a success.

All the indications are that Scotland and Wales will have organic payment schemes which will encompass a whole farm approach but in England, Defra seems, at the moment, to be perversely set against the idea.

The whole farm system approach optimises public goods delivery

WHAg is a member of the English Organic Forum (EOF) which has been trying to get the government to include an organic and whole farm component in the scheme. To date, the efforts have been made behind the scenes but such is our mounting concern that we “went public” with a press release on the back of a National Trust report on the success of its in-house managed organic farm on the Wimpole Estate.

Commenting on the commercial and environmental success there, EOF chair, Christopher Stopes said that the story of Wimpole highlighted that it is the “whole system approach which brings production, ecology and environment together in a way which optimises food production alongside the delivery of public goods.”

At the present Defra’s Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), the chosen vehicle for the new payment scheme, is built on three tiers with tier 1 focussing on production balanced by “public goods” delivered through a menu of individual techniques which farmers can take up as they choose. These have limited relationships to each other and do not form any coherent whole.

Bypassing whole farm health

As Stopes says, “The whole farm system approach is critical and we are deeply concerned that this is being overlooked by Defra.”

At WHAg we are keenly aware that it is not just organic farmers who follow a whole health approach to farming. Farmers who use conventional inputs do this too. The key thing is to manage the farm as a coherent, whole system. Experience over the years has shown that this is the best way of achieving health.

Unless Defra changes tack, what has been called a “once in a generation chance” to change how we farm is going to bypass supporting whole farm health – at least in England.

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Organic Forum (EOF) has expressed concern that organic options are being side-lined by Defra

As the UK Government steers its proposed ‘public money for public goods’ farming system through parliament, the English Organic Forum (EOF) has expressed concern that organic options are being side-lined by Defra.

The EOF – which represents organic organizations and businesses – says that while the proposed policy has a number of good points, it hasn’t specifically recognized the vital role organic farming plays in delivering public goods or the vital importance of whole farming systems.

EOF references a recent farm health check report from The National Trust which highlights the success of organic farming, using as an example Wimple Estate Home Farm – the only farm the trust directly manages.

Full article: https://www.naturalproductsonline.co.uk/news/eof-fears-government-may-overlook-organic-farming-in-public-goods-policy/

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Brexit guru: if you want high food standards “you should never have left the EU”

The man once known in Westminster as the ‘Brexiteers’ brain’ has told the Financial Times that if we are going to insist on stringent animal welfare and environmental standards for imported food, we “should never have left the EU.” 

This will come as a surprise to many farmers who voted to leave but didn’t expect to find themselves competing with low-cost imports produced to a lower standard.

The FT’s report has charts that show only the Americans spend less of their income on food than we do. In addition, UK farmers make less that 1 per cent return on capital employed, compared to between 6 and 12 per cent for all the other links in the food chain. To reduce this further would put many out of business.

A no deal exit would be extremely damaging to the farming sector, but even if an FTA is struck, Britain faces a crucial decision about its food supply outside the EU. The terms agreed with other countries will determine the level of competition farmers will be faced with from foreign suppliers.

Read full report by Yorkshire Bylines: Brexit guru: if you want high food standards you should never have left the EU

Read full FT report (subscription required): Coronavirus: UK farmers face brutal test ahead of Brexit

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8 out of 10 people feel that animal welfare laws should be upheld or strengthened post Brexit

Thirty-six animal welfare organisations [1] are warning that the UK Government risks public dismay if it waters down animal protections in UK law post-Brexit [2], following on from a public outcry in late 2017 over weakening animal sentience law. [3] New research released today reveals that more than 8 out of 10 people (81%) think that animal welfare laws should be maintained or strengthened post-Brexit, while only 2% feel it might be acceptable to have weaker animal protections.

The warning comes as a new #BetterDealForAnimals campaign is launched, to make sure that animals don’t become victims of Brexit. The campaign is calling for animal sentience to be explicitly enshrined in UK law, as it is in the EU, and for any future legislation or Government policy to fully take into account its impact on the welfare of animals. Without this, the UK Government’s current planned legislation will weaken protection for animals across the country. 

For further information……click on full article link. 

Credit: Wildlife and Countryside

Full article: https://www.wcl.org.uk/warnings-of-public-dismay-as-animals-become-victims-of-brexit.asp

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