The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently started drawing up a long-term strategy for food and farming. While the Landworker’s Alliance (LWA) agrees that a strategic approach is needed to address the challenges facing food and farming, we are extremely concerned that small-scale and family farmers have been excluded from the process. It is essential that Defra recognise the central role that small-scale and family farmers play in UK food and farming, and responds directly to their needs.
The LWA argues that we cannot create a sustainable future for food within the industrial framework that Defra is currently strengthening. Instead we need a National Food Policy based on food sovereignty principles, that puts power into the hands of people to create a more just and equitable food system. The strategy must focus on providing farmers with viable livelihoods and achieving self sufficiency in food while addressing the key challenges of climate change, soil degradation, an ageing farming population and a lack of access to land and training for new entrants.
The current milk crisis highlights the contradictory approach this food strategy seems to be taking. Milk prices are well below the cost of production and falling further, dairy farmers are being forced out of the industry and Defra are focussing on exports rather than securing viable livelihoods for farmers! The primary aim of agriculture in Britain must be to feed our population with a healthy, balanced diet and you can’t do that without farmers. At a time when 45% of our vegetables and 90% of our fruit are imported it is crazy to focus on developing export strategies rather than increasing domestic production.
LWA and Defra do share common goals. Providing more opportunities for young people to develop farming skills and increasing procurement of British produce in schools and hospitals are two examples. What sets LWA apart is its commitment to putting the needs of people above the desire for profit.
We call on Defra to engage with the LWA as official representatives of small-scale and family farmers in the UK. Defra has the opportunity to show that it is not the puppet of industry, but committed to a democratic debate about the future of our food system.
The LWA is an official member of the international peasant farming movement La Via Campesina that represents 200 million small-scale producers around the world. We campaign for the rights of small-scale producers and lobby the UK government and European Parliament for policies that support the infrastructure and markets central to our livelihoods.
In the UK: Landworkers’ Alliance Press Contact: 07951 060 409
(Overseas + 44 7951 060 409)
For information on LWA and an overview of our Policy Demands, download ‘Feeding the Future’ from our website: https://dev.landworkersalliance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/feeding-future.jpg