The Agriculture Bill, that was debated and voted on in the House of Commons last month, is as significant as it is complex.
Basic Payments to Farmers
To oversimplify, farmers will lose their Basic Payments (paid against how much land they own) and be paid (much less) only for ‘non-market impacts’ – flood prevention and the environment. Currently about half a farmer’s income comes from Basic Payments.
The Bill will ‘encourage’ (no details yet) farmers to reduce their costs, retire as appropriate, and facilitate new entrants.
A main concern is vulnerability to cheap imports with lower food standards (chlorinated chicken, intensive livestock): the Bill does not cover these, leaving them to individual trade agreements.
Can Britain Feed Itself?
Increased food self-sufficiency also is not in the Bill.
Government prefers to rely on the trickle-down effect. As George Eustice (Secretary of State at Defra) says: “If you increase farm profitability then these things (self-sufficiency) will take care of themselves.”
Food as a Commodity and Agriculture as Separate
But there are two more fundamental flaws in the Bill. Food is still treated as a market commodity (Eustice: “the Bill has the purpose of ensuring farm profitability and growing export markets”) and not a basic human need and, secondly, agriculture remains divorced from the rest of the food system (processing, distribution, consumption).
Need for a Holistic Food Policy
Until a more holistic food policy embraces food as a human need within a whole food system, the big ‘non-market impacts’ of food, particularly food waste, obesity and food poverty, will never be properly addressed.
The Bill now passes to the House of Lords without key amendments that could have helped protect farmers, the environment and food security.
Read more about the Bill from the Soil Association.
Care Farming is the therapeutic use of farming practices – where service users regularly attend the care farm as part of a structured health or social care, rehabilitation or specialist educational programme.
The powerful mix of being in nature, being part of a group and taking part in meaningful nature based activities is what makes care farming so successful.
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Guest blog, by Annabel Britton, from All Good Market in Stamford There are more organisms in a handful of soil than there are people on Earth. It’s the foundation of all terrestrial life and civilisation. And it’s a finite resource: its loss and degradation cannot be recovered within a human lifespan. The soil crisis Globally,… Continue reading 60 Harvests Left