Put Agroecology and Local Food in The Agriculture Bill
The Landworkers’ Alliance needs your help to push for amendments
that will support Agroecology and local food the new Agriculture Bill
WHAT'S THE ISSUE
The proposed Agriculture Bill does not make reference to agroecological farming or local food.
The Bill enforces UK policy post-Brexit. It is currently being considered and then voted on over the next few months. The Bill replaces existing EU direct payments with environmental land management payments.
The EU system subsidises farmers based on how much area they own regardless of the system they use. The replacement will financially reward farmers for improving the environment.
This groundbreaking bill is a move in the right direction, however we are concerned that it needs to go further and promote whole farm systems; affordable local food at the same time as improving the environment.
It is very important that the Bill makes a direct reference to whole farm management systems so that successive governments prioritise this approach as they implement our agricultural policy. We need to transform farming systems beyond wildlife measures on the edges of fields.
Without incentives to farm, many landowners will simply stop producing food and turn their farms over to nature management. The consequences of which, will push our food security outside of our national border.
Almost everyone agrees that the purpose of an Agriculture Bill is to support the accessibility of healthy local food for everyone in the UK. Many MP's have voiced that we need a Bill, which strengthens sustainable food production, regenerates the environment, promotes healthy outcomes and supports local economies.
HOW WE are FIXing IT
A letter by Jyoti Fernandes, LWA Policy Team:
The next stage of the Agriculture Bill is “report stage” where all MP’s get a chance to propose amendments and debate on them. A few will be put to a vote for adoption. Report Stage is scheduled to be held after the “meaningful vote” on Brexit and the Fisheries Bill, so we don’t know when this will be or how long we have to talk to our MP’s. It will most likely be the beginning of February.
Just before the Christmas break, Labour front bench tabled these amendments:
- Amendment 37: Clause 1, page 1, line 7 at end insert- “(aa)supporting agriculture and horticulture businesses in enabling public access to healthy food that is farmed sustainably, including food produced through whole farm agroecological systems.”
- Amendment 38: Clause 1,page 2, line 23 at end insert- “sustainable” means in a way which employs factors and practices that contribute to the quality of the environment on a long term basis and avoids the depletion of natural resources." tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, Sue Hayman, Dr. David Drew, Jenny Chapman, Sandy Martin, Thangam Debbonaire
Labour intends to put their whip on this amendment and encourage all Labour MP’s to vote for it. If you are able to personally contact your MP and ask them to support this amendment, please send them an email or arrange a meeting with them. I am happy to meet with them in person if they would like to talk with the LWA policy team in Westminster. If your MP is already sponsoring the amendments then please thank them for their support.
There are also two exciting amendments that were earlier put forward by LWA, Sustain, Soil Association and Organic Farmers and Growers on Agroecology- Amendments 1&2 - which were tabled and defended by Kerry McCarthy (lab) and supported by Zac Goldsmith (con), Caroline Lucas (grn), Darren Jones (lab) and Sarah Wollaston (con).
- Amendment 1: Clause 1, page 2, line 3, at end insert— (h) establishing and maintaining whole farm agroecological systems.
- Amendment 2: Clause 1, page 2, line 9, at end insert— ““whole farm agroecological systems” include any whole enterprise system for farming or land management which is designed to produce food and/or fuel while delivering environmental and social benefits, and may include organic farming,”
We hope we can really stir up support so that these amendments will pass and be voted on, but we are also seeking to raise the profile of Agroecology so that we can encourage Defra to adopt a scheme to support Agroecology and continue conversion and maintenance payments for Organic Farming. We are putting forward proposals for several schemes to Defra as part of the tests and trials they are sponsoring of the new Environmental Land Management Schemes.
The Landworkers’ Alliance is also actively seeking to be on the advisory panel and participate as stakeholders in the tests and trials of the new Defra schemes. We had lunch with Secretary of State Michael Gove at the Oxford Real Farming Conference to highlight support for agro-ecology and asked for his assistance in being on the advisory panel for the emerging schemes.
There are other amendments that we did not draft but fully endorse, on Animal Welfare, Climate Change, Country Smallholdings, International Trade Standards, Pesticide Reduction and a very important one on replacing the word “may” with “must” throughout the text of the Bill.
Niel Parish MP has tabled a set of amendments in food production for the NFU, but we are clear that we do NOT want to support a return to an area based payment system to support farmers and do not want to open the door to that with a loose definition of food security. In our analysis, the term food security is loose and can be interpreted in different ways, many of which would undermine a transition to sustainable farming. The LWA policy team is glad that Niel Parish is bringing the issue of supporting farmers to the table, but food security can be provided by intensive production and justifies the usage of pesticides, artificial fertilisers, and herbicides, despite the fact that intensive agriculture does not necessarily correlate to affordable access to food for the population. A distinction has to be made between different sorts of farming systems in any proposal, thus the reason for Labour to introduce the amendments above on supporting farmers and access to food with tighter definitions.
What you can do to get involved
- Please arrange a meeting with your MP to encourage them to support these amendments and to turn up on the day to vote for them! Please stay in touch with me to tell me what they say.
- Ask any organisations you are a member of or have contact with if they would be willing to put their name to any of these amendments as supporters.
- If you live in Wales and are able to help me contact Welsh MP’s so we can introduce amendments to the Welsh part of the Bill- please get in touch.
Likewise we need to create a Scottish LWA response to the Bill, even though there is not a section dealing specifically with Scotland.
So, exciting times! I have had feedback from everyone that I am working with and they are very grateful for the LWA's involvement in lobbying the Agriculture Bill. Particularly with the vision of food sovereignty that we present, a vision that supports the middle ground, a vision which is fundamentally ecological while simultaneously supporting farmers and a more socially just food system.
We're hoping for some big changes.
🙏🏻 Thank you so much for your support. 🙏🏻
LWA policy team
Agroecology is a term that is recognised on the highest international levels by the Committee on Food Security as being the way to feed the world. Studies by the UN have proven that industrial agriculture is depleting our land and creating enormous public health problems. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is advising that all countries take steps to transition to Agroecology.
The UN provides the following definition of agroecology: ‘Agroecology is based on applying ecological concepts and principles to optimize interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system. By building synergies, agroecology can support food production and food security and nutrition while restoring the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture. Agroecology can play an important role in building resilience and adapting to climate change.’
Examples of whole farm agroecological systems are mixed farming, community supported agriculture, organic farming, pasture-fed livestock and other whole farm sustainable farming techniques that work together with measures to encourage wildlife and restore nature.
You can contact the Land Workers Alliance for the growing evidence of the benefits of agroecology. Agroecological methods can produce comparable or superior yields at lower cost with greater profitability, and sustain more diverse and nutritious diets than industrial monoculture-based agriculture. Ecologically, these systems are low-impact; they are often regenerative of biodiversity, soils and the environment.
Photo: A grower for Organic Lea by Adam Payne/LWA
THE LANDWORKERS’ ALLIANCE
The Landworkers’ Alliance is a grassroots union of farmers, growers and land-based workers with a mission to improve the livelihoods of our members and create a better food system for everyone.
We work for a future where farmers are able to work with dignity and earn a decent living, and people can access healthy, affordable food from local producers.
We are a democratic member-led union, run by producers for producers. All our policies and representation comes from farmers, growers and land-based workers who have direct experiences of the issues we campaign on.
We are members of La Via Campesina, the global movement of small-scale producers and peasant farmers.
For more, please check our website: www.landworkersalliance.org.uk
What is happening in the UK affects us all. Right now, exiting the EU means we are to create our own UK Agricultural Policy. Fundamentally, what happens is going to affect agriculture for at least the next 50-100 years. It is a real keystone moment, a decision making turning point.
Brexit has many daunting challenges, but for farming, it has opened a golden opportunity if the trade deals are conducive. Right now, MPs are debating on what’s going to happen to the support system for agriculture. They are tabling the Agriculture Bill. The LWA has been working none stop, talking to MPs, policymakers, and high-level civil servants, about what should be done.
The direct payment system that pays land owners for owning land is to end. In its place comes subsidies for environmental land management payments. Although the latter is something that we support (with positive impacts such as soil health, climate change mitigation, and increase of biodiversity etc.), something important is missing from the agriculture bill; farming.
The UK’s small-scale, ecological and family farms are at the heart of our rural culture and communities; they create employment, protect cherished landscapes and provide a huge amount of the food we eat.
The task of creating a post-Brexit ‘British Agricultural Policy’ that support producers, protects the environment and prioritises access to healthy, nutritious food for all, is a complex but essential one. It represents a great opportunity if the Government listens to the needs of all stakeholders and put in place a truly long-term plan for environmental, social and economic resilience.
Read more about our recomendations for post-Brexit policy.
Photo: LWA member
by Rebecca Laughton/LWA
GOOD FOOD MARCH : The march highlights how we need to support a new generation of farmers producing agroecoological food. The Government needs to make a commitment to a New Entrants Scheme.
Jyoti Fernandes on the Importance of small family farms: On the opening night of the photography exhibition, We Feed the World, Jyoti Fernandes of the Land Worker’s Alliance reminds us of the role we can all play in standing up and speaking out for a fairer food and farming system.
The trailer for the LWA’s film, In Our Hands. It explores the quiet revolution that is transforming the way our food is produced and distributed. Our current industrial food system is a vast and wheezing giant that is only upheld by a stilted subsidy regime that pays out to landowners and leaves many farmers by the wayside.