Helping farmers put real health on our plates

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.

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Full list of MPs who voted to lower our food standards during the Covid pandemic

Under cover of the Coronavirus pandemic and headlines over the Government’s handling of the crisis which has seen Britain suffer more deaths than any other European country, another major public health story has slipped through barely noticed, and has rarely been mentioned in the weekly PMQs.

The most important farming legislation in generations passed its third reading in parliament despite warnings that in a bid to make the UK market pliable for a post-Brexit US trade deal, protections of minimum food safety standards have evaporated, as have safeguards for Britain’s farmers.

With most MPs still socially distanced at home, MPs passed the legislation’s third reading in a virtual vote – 360 – 211 despite guarantees of a minimum standard to protect British food – and therefor British farming – being absent from the overhaul of UK agriculture. A full list of how they voted in this crucial legislation is in the report (link below).

As the bill moves to the Lords for a second reading amid outrage from UK farmers, this weekend former Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson expressed his disbelief that all eight DUP MPs had voted with Conservative colleagues for a bill he said has “the potential to be the last nail in the coffin for agriculture in Northern Ireland.”

He warned: “the Bill opens the flood gates to cheap food imports into the UK from around the world. This food will not have been produced to the same standards achieved consistently by farmers in Northern Ireland. These imports will serve to drive markets down at a time when local farmers are under tremendous pressure.”

Full report:

Tell your MP to Support a Healthy Homegrown Food Supply – bill to be debated 13th May

The Agriculture Bill to be debated in parliament on May 13th will set the course of our farming system for many generations. The Bill as it stands does much to protect the environment, but we believe the Bill should do more to protect our farmers and support our supply of healthy, home grown food.

It is entirely possible to produce more of the food we need through nature-friendly, agroecological farming.

Click this link to quickly tell your MP. Your support will build a stronger UK farming sector for future generations.

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)

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