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Government - act now for food and farming

Government - act now for food and farming

Soil Association response to Sunak’s Food Summit

Sunak’s Food Summit on Tuesday 16th May had more than a sense of deja vu. In the face of multiple challenges, the government’s approach to food and farming remains piecemeal and underwhelming.

Media attention on these issues is welcome, however. And the summit briefly elevated food and farming up the political agenda.

Among the more positive commitments issued at the summit are reviews into fairness in the supply chain for horticulture and eggs, and maintaining the Groceries Code Adjudicator. The proposed Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture, set to launch later this year, with the intention of strengthening support for skills and careers across the horticulture sector, is potentially a good thing.

But these positives are overshadowed by an overarching lack of policy coherence across government, exemplified in the recent decision to scrap the horticulture strategy. The government has failed to articulate a single vision or clear direction for food and farming. There’s no evidence, for example, that the agriculture, trade and climate agendas are being considered together.

We urgently need stronger political leadership. Food and farming are in a critical place. Families are struggling with rising food prices, and farmers are grappling with increasing costs and an uncertain policy environment. The food crisis is complex but demands the same level of urgency as last year’s energy crisis, which led to the Energy Prices Act.

There is growing public appetite for bold government action. Citizens want to be given reason to hope that our rivers can be clean and household food insecurity addressed.

And though the challenges are formidable, the right solutions could provide this hope, delivering multiple benefits for farming, society, and the environment.

With the right policy and payment framework in place, the government could offer clarity for farmers and hope for nature, investing in a transition to nature-friendly farming and greater self-sufficiency, resilience and food security in the UK. In the face of multiple crises, investing in farmer-led research and proven agroecological solutions should be a no brainer, as diverse organisations affirmed in the recent consensus on future food and farming

Was the summit anything more than a media moment? The jury is still out. And in the meantime, the challenges confronting food, farming and families continue to pile up.

Read more about the Consensus on future food and farming