In this week’s podcast, Patrick Holden talks to President of the National Farmers Union Minette Batters about what we must learn from the coronavirus pandemic and why the Agriculture Bill and future policy must prioritise a secure and sustainable food supply.
In a press release published on Wednesday, we highlighted significant deficiencies in the Bill, its failure to feature food and farming in any meaningful way and it’s lack of commitment to agroecological practices and food security. We joined a historic coalition between farming, environmental and animal welfare organisations, convened by the NFU, to call on MPs to ensure vital safeguards for UK farmers were included in the Bill. Unfortunately, these and other amendments were voted down during the Bill’s Third Reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday, putting the UK on a worrying course towards free trade agreements and low standard imports. The opportunity to support the adoption of sustainable farming practices across the whole farm, not just around the edges, is also in danger of being missed entirely with a piece of legislation which fails to integrate food production and environmental protection.
The need to work together has therefore never been more paramount. As Minette says on the podcast, “We have to get it [the Agriculture Bill] right, we believe it has to be fully scrutinised.” She calls for an annual review of UK food security and says, “Not to learn the lessons from Covid-19 would be a failure, we need to look at the Agriculture Bill with fresh eyes and draw out what is meaningful.”
Minette and Patrick also go on to discuss critical and timely issues, including the potential for re-establishing the local food agenda, the role of livestock in sustainable farming systems, and whether or not food should be considered a public good.