Nature & Net Zero & Food Security?
The Soil Association Nature, Net Zero and Food Security: exploring the agroecological solution conference (April 2022) brought together a varied group of speakers including farmers, food system experts, academics, NGO experts, politicians, Peers and even the Secretary of State, George Eustice.
You can find the conference programme below. To find out more about the event, read this blog by Jo Lewis, Policy & Strategy Director at the Soil Association; or watch the recording of the event below.
Opening words by Helen Browning, CEO of Soil Association
10:10 Session One
Nature, Net Zero & Food Security – Can Agroecological Farming Square the Circle?
- In the context of the Ukraine invasion, and rising agricultural commodity and input prices, is an agroecological farming transition compatible with food security?
- In the lead-up to the CBD COP-15, can agroecological farming reconcile carbon-smart farming with the need to reverse biodiversity loss? Can it spare enough land for nature?
Opening words by the Chair, Jo Lewis, Policy Director of the Soil Association
Presentation by Professor Tim Benton:
Introducing a new critical analysis of how sustainable agriculture is linked to sustainable food systems
- David Edwards, WWF Food Strategy Director
- Jyoti Fernandes, Landworkers Alliance Campaigns & Policy Coordinator
11:15 Keynote Speech
Keynote speech by George Eustice, Secretary of State following an introduction by Jo Lewis.
12.00pm: Session Two
Farming trees and natural capital: what are the opportunities and risks?
- Is there a role for natural capital markets in delivering for the climate and nature and farmers?
- What are the opportunities and risks in natural capital markets for agroecological farming?
- What are the prospects for a farmer-led tree revolution that prioritises integration of trees in the farmed landscape?
Opening words by the Chair, Joseph Gridley, Soil Association Exchange Director
Presentation by Clive Thomas, Senior Policy Advisor, Soil Association:
Towards a diverse farm woodland economy: the case for a farmer-led tree revolution.
- Susan Twining, Chief Land Use Advisor, CLA
- Dustin Benton, Policy Director, Green Alliance
14:00 Session Three
Can agroecology stack up economically – on the farm or at the macro level?
- What does the changing economic context mean for costs of production and profitability in agroecological and conventional systems?
- What are the pathways to profitability for current and future agroecological farms?
- How might the policy framework achieve best value by enabling farms to stack public money for public goods alongside other financial strategies in a whole farm approach?
Opening words by the Chair, Gareth Morgan, Soil Association Head of Farming Policy
- Jason Beedell, Strutt & Parker and Ian Dickie, Eftec
- George Chanarin, Cumulus Consultants
- Martin Lines, Chair, Nature Friendly Farming Network
- George Young, Fobbing Farm
- Jonathan Baker, Defra
- Helen Browning, CEO, Soil Association
15:10 Refreshment Break
15:30 Session Four
The politics of the food and farming transition – some perspectives from Parliament.
- How can policy ensure a joined-up response to climate, nature and resilient food production goals?
- How can the National Food Strategy’s bold ambition for agroecological farming be translated into effective policy support? And what role can Parliament now play in holding Government to account on this?
Opening words by the Chair, Tom Burston, Policy Director, Food, Farming & Countryside Commission
- Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
- Lord Curry of Kirkharle
- Lord Deben
- Baroness Young of Old Scone
16:30 Closing words
Closing words by James Cashmore, MD, Soil Association
Jonathan Baker is Head of Programme Policy Engagement and Strategy in Defra’s Future Farming and Countryside Programme. Jonathan heads up the team responsible for cross-cutting policy across the Agriculture Bill, overarching policy across the agricultural transition period and the strategic direction of the reforms to England’s agricultural policy. Prior to working in Defra, Jonathan was a Senior Land Use Advisor at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) where he led on environmental and land use policy.
Dr. Jason Beedell
Jason heads Strutt & Parker’s rural research and supports the firm’s rural team with information and analysis on farming, land management, planning, environment, energy, forestry and rural capital markets. He is a nationally recognised commentator on rural issues, particularly rural property markets and agricultural policy reform. He has lead multi-disciplinary research teams on a wide range of subjects, including the rural economy and environmental policies. He leads our collaboration on natural capital accounting with eftec.
Baroness Natalie Bennett
Natalie became the second Green Party member of the House of Lords in 2019, having been party leader from 2012-2016. She's since then concentrated on the Agriculture and Environment Acts (in which she briefly got inserted soil as a priority area). An agricultural science graduate, she's particularly focused on food security and biodiversity, caring for all of the land rather than sparing some and trashing the rest.
Dustin is the policy director of Green Alliance, leading its work across energy, resources, and the natural environment, with a particular focus on getting on track to net zero emissions. He recently returned from a secondment with Defra, where he was chief analytical advisor to the National Food Strategy. Previously his work at Green Alliance focused on energy efficiency, renewables, and CCS, and was an expert commentator on resource risk, plastics, circular electronics and the EU-wide Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions.
Professor Tim Benton
Professor Tim G. Benton leads the Environment and Society Programme at Chatham House. He joined Chatham House in 2016 as a distinguished visiting fellow, at which time he was also dean of strategic research initiatives at the University of Leeds. From 2011-2016 he was the ‘champion’ of the UK’s Global Food Security programme which was a multi-agency partnership of the UK’s public bodies (government departments, devolved governments and research councils) with an interest in the challenges around food.
Helen Browning OBE
Helen has a very mixed organic farm Wiltshire, with dairy, beef, pigs, cereals and is now also experimenting with agro-forestry. Her products are sold through the Helen Browning’s Organic brand in retailers, big and small, as well as through her mini hotel and restaurant/pub on the farm. She is Chief Executive of the Soil Association, trustee of the RSPB and of the Food farming and Countryside Commission, and a member of the BBC’s Rural Affairs Advisory Committee.
Tom is Director of Policy and Research at the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, leading a team that works on the urgent and interconnected challenges of our climate, nature and health crises. Tom has long experience of working with development agencies around the world, embracing different perspectives to find shared interest and common cause. When Tom is not working, you will find him in the Northumbrian hills with his wife and their two children.
James is Managing Director at the Soil Association, leading the charity's overall work and impact across food and farming. Appointed in 2015, as Director of Food for Life, James led the transition of the programme from a Big Lottery funded partnership focused on schools, extending into early years settings, hospitals and older people and developing new income streams. He is also responsible for the Soil Association’s work on the Sustainable Food Cities programme.
George Chanarin is a Consultant at Cumulus Consultants and lead author of the Soil Association reports exploring the Economics of a Transition to Agroecological Farm Businesses and Agroforestry and Farm Woodland in the UK. He has an MSc in Environmental Science from Wageningen University. Working for Cumulus he has applied this knowledge at the farm level to assess and influence how land managers and decision-makers impact and benefit from natural capital.
Lord Curry of Kirkharle, CBE
Donald Curry has been a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords since 2011. He is a trustee of Clinton Devon Estates, and also Anglican International Development (AID), a charity leading on a range of development projects in South Sudan. He is also Chair of Food and Farming Futures and a founder and Chair of The Rural Design Centre in the North East of England. In 2017 he became President of Community Action Northumberland.
The Rt. Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, set up and now runs Sancroft, a Corporate Responsibility consultancy working with blue-chip companies around the world on environmental, social and ethical issues. Lord Deben is Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, Valpak Limited, and the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advisers Association. He was the longest serving Secretary of State for the Environment the UK has ever had (1993-97).
Ian Dickie is a Director at eftec, working on natural capital accounting and environmental policies, and is an author of the Natural Capital Protocol. He has led development of 60 natural capital accounts for a range of organisations; managed £3million of research for UK Government, including ELMS tests & trials, and UK ecosystem accounts; and worked on Natural Capital Investment Plans for Greater Manchester and Cumbria, and biodiversity net gain and bio-carbon markets.
David is Director of Food Strategy at WWF-UK and sits on WWF’s Global Food Leadership Team. Prior to joining WWF in 2018, David served for 10 years as Assistant Director of HRH The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit, having worked previously both as a development consultant in Africa and as a research executive with KANTAR-TNS advising major food and drinks companies. He is a Trustee of Food Foundation and SUSTAIN.
Jyoti Fernandes manages a mixed organic smallholding in Dorset producing beef, lamb, cider, apple juice, fruit and vegetables. She promotes public policy to support of agro-ecological farming through the Landworkers Alliance- a farmers union in the UK - and a union - La Via Campesina, comprised of 300 million small and family farmers across the globe.
Joseph Gridley is Director and founder of the Soil Association Exchange. Prior to joining the Soil Association, Joseph lived in Madrid leading EIT Food’s work with start-ups building a better food system in Southern Europe and starting a project to help 100+ Spanish/Italian farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture. Before moving to Spain, Joseph worked as a chef, studied law at the School of Oriental Studies, and worked at various NGOs on youth empowerment and employment projects.
Jo directs the Soil Association’s Policy Unit. She is a Trustee and former Chair of the Food Ethics Council and a Trustee of Sustain, the alliance for food and farming. Jo led the development of the Soil Association’s Food for Life programme including the Food for Life Served Here accreditation for healthy and sustainable menus. Before joining the Soil Association, Jo led policy teams in Defra and Green Alliance.
Martin is a farmer and contractor in South Cambridgeshire, growing mainly arable crops on a regenerative system on his family farm and rented land. He has a special interest in farm conservation management and has Countryside Stewardship schemes on his home farm and land he rents and manages. He also supports the delivery of Stewardship schemes for a number of other farmers. Martin is the NFFN UK Steering Group Chair.
Gareth is Head of Farming and Land Use Policy at the Soil Association. His interest in sustainable farming springs from a longstanding passion for the natural world, alongside fluctuating attempts to grow his own food and long hours spent in the kitchen. Gareth has worked for various environmental organisations including the RSPB and Natural England mostly in roles looking at the interaction between farming and nature.
Clive Thomas is Soil Association’s senior policy advisor for forestry, leading on regenerative forestry advocacy including the integration of trees and woodland management into farming systems, as well as policy development in response to voluntary carbon and natural capital markets. Clive is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and has worked in private and state forestry sectors during a 30+ year career managing forests and developing forest policy.
Susan Twining is the Chief Land Use Policy Adviser at the CLA covering issues related to agriculture, woodland and the environment. Susan has been at the CLA since 2017 with a focus on shaping the new agricultural policy, the industry contribution to climate action and wider land use issues. Prior to the CLA Susan was Associate Director at ADAS heading their Sustainable Food and Farming business, having started as an agronomist and farm business adviser.
Baroness Barbara Young
Barbara, Baroness Young of Old Scone, is a Member of the House of Lords with special interests, among others, in the environment, agriculture, natural resources and climate change. She has been Chairman of the Woodland Trust since 2016 and was appointed the Chairman of Council at the Royal Veterinary College in July 2019. Baroness Young has a number of honorary designations and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2017.
George Young is an agro-ecological mixed farmer from Fobbing, South Essex. He grows heritage wheat and other niche crops which are often processed on farm, including stone-milling and dehulling. George also runs a herd of native pedigree Red Poll cows, and has a 50 acre trial field of agroforestry comprising over 7,000 trees (fruit, nut and timber). Everything about the farming operation is focussed on ecology and bringing nature into the heart of the farm.