By Vicki Hird, Farm Campaign Coordinator, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

We have a chance of fairer, better food policy – we need your help

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to transform how we support farmers and get new and better food onto our plates. Leaving the European farm policy means a new UK Agriculture Bill was needed and one was presented to Parliament in September. MPs and the House of Lords will now be scrutinising the Bill line by line, making amendments and it could become law by April 2019. The next few months will be crucial in shaping it so that a better farm support system emerges.

So they need to hear what you want. How would you give public support to farming so it better delivers for your enterprise and for local businesses? Do you hear farmers and growers struggling to get the support they need to change to more nature friendly practices or diversifying what they do? Would you like more varieties, more fresh and local, more organic and higher welfare food like fully pasture fed meat? Do you think government should better support local production and supply of heathier foods like fruit and vegetables? If we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions can we make that happen without harming supply of quality food or making it too pricey? Do you want meat reared with minimal antibiotic use or pesticide residue free produce?

All these are possible outcomes from a new Bill. It’s the first major UK legislation on agriculture in 50 years, and Sustain aims to grasp this opportunity to influence UK farm policy and practice. We want those questions answered. And even more so as its rather urgent given the need for the UK to take strong action on farm livelihoods, working conditions, public health, animal welfare, biodiversity, environmental protection and climate change. For too long farm policy has failed to support farmers well so they can grow or rear food sustainably and earn a decent living as part of a strong rural economy at the same time. And there has been too little control of unfair supply chains.

The purpose of new farm policy should be a prosperous, resilient and sustainable farming system that provides a reliable supply of healthy food, grown to high standards of animal welfare, environment and nature protection. It must be able to provide healthy food as well as decent rural livelihoods. So, fair prices and trading practices must be assured via regulation. Farming must also play its part in significantly reducing antibiotic use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Achieving a new vision requires joined-up policy, sufficient budget and appropriate, effective regulation. Incentives are needed for farmers and land managers to adopt better practices where the market will not pay and new training, advice and research. Your MP, and anyone you may know in the House of Lords, need to hear that you want the new Agriculture Bill to deliver a better vision for you, your customers and community.

Do tell your MP what you think and do share the action. MPs need to hear from those cooking and serving the food as well as those producing and eating it.

(twitter @vickihird)