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With Brexit looming and a proposed new Agriculture Bill on the table, we as individuals and communities have an unprecedented opportunity to help shape the future of food and farming in the UK. If you think the way GC trades and the small-scale, organic farmers we support offer the kindest, fairest way forward for people and planet, please take a moment to tell Michael Gove.
The whole consultation is incredibly long, so we’ve written a short statement below that you can cut and paste into an email. Please make any changes or additions you’d like – or write your own version – and email it to this address.
(With thanks to Sustain, the Soil Assocation, the Landworkers' Alliance and all the other organisations who have worked so diligently on their responses.)
The consultation closes next Tuesday 8 May.
Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the full response that Growing Communities submitted.
Dear Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove
I am writing in response to Defra’s consultation on future farm policy ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’.
I appreciate Defra’s ‘Health and Harmony’ paper for acknowledging the huge problems with the current subsidy system and the commitment to move towards a system of public money for public goods.
I’m a member of Growing Communities, a north London social enterprise creating a fairer, more sustainable food system by supporting small-scale local organic farmers through an organic veg scheme, farmers’ market and local growing and training.
Growing Communities believes that small to medium-scale organic and agroecological producers have a significant part to play in improving the sustainability and resilience of our food and farming system. Their productivity compares favourably to larger-scale systems and sometimes even wins in terms of yields alone, while there is increasing evidence of their ability to support more and better jobs, sustain more biodiversity, protect soils, provide better animal welfare, and create more beneficial social impact.
Also, Growing Communities believes that short supply chains and values-led local retailers offer a vital way to support those farmers.
I’d like to see an expansion of organic farming at the heart of the new environmental land management scheme. All the environmental outcomes listed in section 5 are vital - improving soil health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and improving water and air quality.
Not only are organic farming methods proven to be good for wildlife, soil health, and animal welfare, but consumer demand for organic in the UK and globally is growing steadily, and conversion to organic can offer significant business opportunities for farmers.
Fresh, local food
I believe that the list of ‘public goods’ that the Government should support must include ‘public health’. So I’d like to see support activities that make sustainably produced, fresh food available, affordable and accessible to all, specifically with more and diverse fruit and vegetables available. I’d like to see financial incentives and grants to support farmers to move into or start horticultural production, particularly those employing ecological production methods such as organic and agroecological.
Increasing local horticultural production of indigenous food types to replace current imports not only increases the supply of fresh food, but reduces transport costs and carbon emissions and improves food sovereignty and security.
Better, more meaningful work
I would like to see support to create better jobs and decent working conditions for workers in food and farming and to encourage a new generation of entrants to farming. Small-scale organic horticulture attracts domestic employees and entrepreneurs, motivated by the meaningful, varied and skilled nature of the work. What’s more, market gardens selling direct to the public - or through local community-led traders such as Growing Communities - tend to be more diverse, creating steadier work throughout the year, in contrast to the highly seasonal nature of more specialised horticultural businesses, and the job insecurity, long hours and low pay that go with that.
Specifically, I would like to see:
(1) Capital grants and training for farmers to transition to ecological farming systems
(2) A local food fund to promote local food economies, including local traders
(3) Capital grants to new entrants to support a new generation of farmers
(4) A horticultural renewal programme to increase local production of fresh fruit and vegetables (leading to improved access and the health benefits that go with that)
(5) Organic conversion maintenance payments
(6) Taxation on harmful agriculture inputs such as pesticides, herbicides and artificial nitrate fertilisers with money being redirected to support the cost of organic farming and to level the playing field.
Thank you for giving me the chance to comment on your proposals.