Labour welcomes the Agriculture Bill’s introduction of financial support for farmers to make environmental improvements, but at Second Reading is calling for the Bill to safeguard the nation’s food supply at a time when food poverty and foodbank demand are rising rapidly.
The Bill risks leading to a greater reliance on imports and does nothing to prevent domestic producers being undercut after EU exit, by countries with lower employment, animal welfare and environmental standards.
Furthermore, it includes no duties or legally enforceable environmental protection targets, when the natural environment is in crisis, with soil degradation and increasingly volatile and extreme weather conditions driven by escalating climate change.
It’s absolutely right that we shift financial assistance for farmers from supporting the ownership of land to the principle of delivering public money for public benefit and help the custodians of our land to restore and improve our natural environment.
But alongside environmental benefits we need the Bill to strengthen and enshrine support for sustainable food production, promote health outcomes, and support rural economies.
It’s a matter of national interest and social justice to ensure that our country can become better able to feed itself and protect against volatility, which is why it is so important for sustainable food production to be a central part of the Agriculture Bill.
A dramatic reduction in UK food production would lead to greater reliance on imports, where we have no control over production, animal welfare, environmental and working standards. Labour believes that access to good quality, healthy food must not be allowed to become the preserve of only those who can afford it.