After World War II there was a necessary focus on food security in Britain, informed by ration books and virtual bankruptcy of the country. But we forget quite quickly and the National Farmers Union reported that self-sufficiency levels in fruit & vegetables fell steadily since the mid-1980s, from 78% to 64%. Britain imports 46% of its food and this may explain why our Government has delayed Brexit border checks five times since 2020 for fear of food shortages and, ultimately, food fighters. Our lack of resilience is not a sustainable position, particularly for a nation that is now isolated from the safety of belonging to the biggest trading bloc in the world. We also operate in a world where food and water will become precious assets in the 21st Century due to global warming.
Food for thought
The True & Fair Party’s Championing the Countryside Campaign aims to make long-term food and water security a priority for the next Government. We owe it to future generations to lobby politicians to make this a national imperative. If you are in a hurry, simply sign the petition here. If you have more time to focus on your kids' futures, read their full report at Food for Thought. The report includes significant content on Vertical and Regenerative farming which offer some ways forward as part of a more sustainable approach to natural resources.
Farmers and fisherfolk were made massive promises about how Brexit would free them from the perceived problems of our EU membership. Seven years on and we now know that these were at best fibs and at worst deliberate gross lies. The promised subsidies for farmers have not materialised to anything like the same amounts. Riverford farms reported that average farming incomes fell by 11 per cent in 2022 due to Brexit, a new subsidy system and ‘extreme’ price pressure from supermarkets.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) added that Britain’s trade deals via CPTPP threaten to ruin true and fair competition for British farmers. This alongside a range of other impacts on the environment such as deforestation, killing bees and poisoning our waterways. Furthermore, the promised reduction of EU red tape has, in fact, increased under Brexit, adding cost, delays and hassle for farmers and fisherfolk with impacts on livelihoods. Undoubtedly Brexit is not wholly responsible for our problems with stewardship of natural resources, but it has played its part alongside decades of managed neglect by politicians.
A better way
Guy Singh-Watson of Riverford Farms shows us ways to more environmentally sensitive stewardship of our farmlands via his ‘getting fair about farming’ ethos. Riverford have set out to do better than vague claims of social responsibility and greenwashing, in direct contrast to the gradual watering down of environmental standards currently being experienced in Westminster. Watson is also deeply concerned about the fact that half of Britain’s fruit and veg growers may go out of business within a year.
“Sustainable trading relationships are based on co-operation, good communication and trust as much as competition. A brutal, short-term focus on annual price negotiations is supporting supermarket margins while destroying British farming along with the landscape, wildlife, and rural communities it once supported.”
Something in the water
Feargal Sharkey is absolutely on point with respect to his campaign to clean up our act on water. It’s simply not right that water companies are paying billions of pounds to shareholders whilst families are unable to bathe in the sea for fear of being confronted by sewage or being hospitalised from e-coli, salmonella and Pseudomonas aeroginosa. Since our Brexit decision, this Government has allowed a race to the bottom in terms of water standards, monitoring and use of banned chemicals for water treatment. Thérèse Coffey’s attempts to sidestep the issue with a few quips and euphemisms about poo ignores the fact that water quality is an extremely serious public health issue for everyone.
Questions of public health are absolutely areas where a laissez faire approach to policymaking opens the door to moral hazard. Root and branch reforms are needed in the governance of the water companies. Regrettably, this is unlikely to come from the ruling binary political system. If we want better rather than more of the same, we must influence for it, hence the True & Fair petition. Ultimately we must also vote for difference at the ballot box.
Making Agriculture Great Again
To sum up, in the warped words of ‘Old MacDonald Trump’, we need to MAGA (Make Agriculture Great Again). This will come from a more environmentally sensitive approach to our relationship with planet Earth and not by further short-termism from Governments keen to secure your votes for potholes, poo and populism. This piece of music I wrote for COP26 summarises the imperative through the words of Greta Thunberg “How do we want to be remembered”.
Watch the video here.
Please sign and share the True and Fair petition here.
Read the report at Food for Thought here.
Authored by Peter Cook. A True & Fair Party member.