With the Welsh Government’s consultation period for Brexit and our land: Securing the future of Welsh farming [1] closing today, the Sustainable Food Trust has released a policy briefing paper [2] on our vision for Welsh agriculture.

The briefing paper welcomes the adoption of a whole-farm approach, which integrates efficient and sustainable food production with practices that maintain and enhance natural and human capital. Such an approach could have multiple benefits, including climate change mitigation, improvements in biodiversity and encouraging better diets and public health outcomes.

The paper also supports the Welsh Government’s objective to design a new agriculture support system that corrects the economic distortions currently found within food and farming and reintegrates food systems in harmony with the natural environment. The current business model means that most farmers have no option but to employ agricultural practices that do not serve the public interest in terms of its impacts on environment and public health. Through the new Agriculture Policy framework, the Welsh Government has the opportunity to create the economic environment where farmers are financially supported for adopting sustainable practices.

Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said, “There are thousands of farmers in Wales, farmers who are deeply committed to caring for the environment and looking after their land. However, they are locked into a production system and are prevented from doing so by the economic environment that they are in. The Welsh Government needs to financially support farmers to deliver ecosystem services through public money for public good.”

The SFT’s briefing paper also raised concerns with the division of the two funding strands of ‘economic resilience’ and ‘public goods’, suggesting that there is scope to expand the term ‘economic resilience’ to recognise the capital needed for farmers to be able to deliver the maximum environmental benefit.

To enable the widespread shift towards a food production system that is truly integrated and functions in harmony with nature, the Sustainable Food Trust recommends that the Government introduce sustainable farming policies such as the ‘polluter pays’ principle, higher animal welfare standards and soil carbon stewardship programmes.

To monitor the impact of these schemes, Welsh Government could consider introducing an annual sustainability assessment using a harmonised framework of metrics that all farmers would be required to submit. The data derived from such an assessment could serve multiple functions: for government and government agencies to monitor eligibility and the impact of public purse support, for certification schemes to collect data they require, for consumers by providing more information about their food, and most importantly, for producers as a farm management tool.

Patrick Holden said, “There are crucial aspects within the Welsh Government proposal that need deeper consideration and we recommend that the Welsh Government introduce a suite of sustainable farming policies that could transform UK food and farming. If implemented well, Wales could become a beacon for others to follow.”

ENDS

For further information contact:

Honor Eldridge – Head of Policy

honor@sustainablefoodtrust.org

07901134413

Megan Perry – Communications Manager

megan@sustainablefoodtrust.org

07761804341

Notes for Editors:

[1] Brexit and Our Land can be read here: https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2018-07/brexit-and-our-land-consultation-document_0.pdf

[2] The SFT briefing paper can be read here: https://sustainablefoodtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/FINAL-Securing-the-future-of-Welsh-farming-Summary-Briefing-.pdf

Photograph: Andrew 

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