TFA calls for rethink to UK food and environmental security

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is calling for the Government to pause plans for major policy change for food, farming and the farmed environment.

With the UK’s exit from the European Union and the forthcoming end of the transition period at the end of the year, it remains the intention of the Government to begin the transition to a new food and farming policy next year.

A new era?

However, the TFA argues that a further period of reflection is necessary before significant adjustments are made.

TFA National chairman Mark Coulman said: “It feels like the Government’s strategy for food, farming and countryside policy was set in another era. Everything has changed massively in such a short period.

“We all need time to reflect about how we respond as we re-map what our future looks like – not just domestically but globally.

It might be the case that we decide to follow the same or a similar strategy, but we must give ourselves the opportunity to reconsider the best way forward.

‘Panic-buying was unheard of a few weeks ago’

Much of the leading edge of our farming industry has capitalised on the growth of the foodservice sector, out-of-home eating, convenience shopping and wider diversification.

These have all but disappeared in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with retailers handed the monopoly on delivering food to consumers.

“Panic-buying, closed restaurants and takeaways, empty supermarket shelves and restrictions on imported food were unthinkable concepts just a few weeks ago,” Coulman said.

The Covid-19 crisis has underlined for us just how fragile we are. We should take the opportunity of looking at ways to build future resilience for our food and environmental security.

“We won’t do this through slavish adherence to the plans we laid prior to the current crisis. Neither can we afford to jump to knee-jerk changes without proper consideration.”

Coulman explained that the first step along the way is to decide whether the Agriculture Bill contains the right framework for developing future policy for food and farming.

“Whilst there are voices suggesting that we need to scrap the current Bill, I do not think that is necessary. However, we do need to push back the start of policy transition from 2021 to at least 2022,” he said.

“At the same time, those aspects of the Bill around food security, the importance of food production, targeting active farmers and the operation of supply chains should be strengthened to be equal with environmental priorities.”