Helping farmers put real health on our plates

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…… 

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.

DEFRA guidance on using green spaces

Updated 1/5/2020

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.

However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.

Please use the following guidance in order to stay safe:

  • stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily. If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that has routinely required you to leave the home to maintain your health – including if that involves travel beyond your local area – then you can do so, ideally in line with a formal care plan agreed with a medical professional
  • you should only go outside alone or with members of your own household
  • keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times
  • you should not gather with more than two people who aren’t from the same household in parks or other public spaces. The police will enforce this
  • if you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air
  • take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors
  • if walking your dog in areas used by other people, you should walk your dog on a lead to ensure you can safely keep 2 metres away from others. You can find further guidance for pet owners here

For further information……click on full article link. 

Credit: DEFRA

Full article: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-guidance-on-access-to-green-spaces

Advisors from a cross section of industry have been appointed to support the development of the National Food Strategy

An advisory panel of experts from across agriculture, retail, food manufacture, NGOs and academia has today been named to support the development of the National Food Strategy.  The Advisory Panel is made up of people from across the food system with extensive experience of the issues the review is tackling.

Lead Independent Reviewer, Henry Dimbleby, has asked the panel to review his work as it progresses and to provide strong independent challenge.  The National Food Strategy team wants to ensure that no stone is left unturned and that ideas are examined from every angle.

For further information……click on full article link. 

Credit: Image – National Food Strategy

Full article: https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/national-food-strategy-advisory-panel-announced/

Gove continues to lack clarity on Agriculture Bill

ORFC 2019 Gove

While the organisers of the Oxford Real Farming Conference welcome the Rt. Honorable Michael Gove MP and thank him for his forthright session at ORFC 2019, there is some frustration on the continued lack of clarity on the role of agroecology (including organic) within the Agriculture Bill.

The session – entitled “The future of farming: Brexit and Beyond” was held on Thursday 3 January, and chaired by Kerry McCarthy MP for Bristol East and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology – saw frank questioning from the attendees and upfront responses from the Defra Secretary.

Colin Tudge, ORFC co-founder said: “While Mr Gove says all the right things and is enthusiastically knowledgeable on a wide variety of issues that are important to the ORFC, he remains difficult to pin down on vital details, such as why agroecology and organic farming continue to be omitted from the Agriculture Bill, despite widespread support for its inclusion and his personal support for the environmental protections whole-farm systems bring.”

During the session, Kerry McCarthy MP asked the question on everyone’s minds: What assurances do farmers have that Mr Gove’s commitments to sustainable farming will be upheld if there are no references within the Bill?

The Environment Secretary responded: “One of the ways we think it’s possible to get the Bill on the statute book relatively rapidly is by making it clear we are not attempting – in this government – to dictate what every future government should do in terms of agricultural support.”

There was a recent amendment tabled in November 2018 which, among other linked issues, called for an overt reference to agroecology, particularly with regards to the idea of whole farm agroecological systems.

For conference participants, the question remains – does Defra see the mere mention of agroecology or organic farming as a barrier to passing the Agriculture Bill quickly?

Agroecology and organic farming provides the type of sustainability and resilience vital for a safer future. Mr. Gove offered assurances that initiatives such as the 25 Year Environment Plan and the Climate Change Act will champion these practices. However, participants do not believe these assurances offer enough clarity on the incentives, support and enforcement required.

Originally published by ORFC. For further information……click on full article link. 

For further information……click on full article link. 

Credit: Oxford Real Farming Conference. (Image: Hugh Warwick)

Full article: http://orfc.org.uk/gove-continues-to-lack-clarity-on-agriculture-bill/

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