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Engaging political parties on their food and farming manifestos

General election: our manifesto asks

The announcement of a general election in June means that all political parties are producing and promoting 2017 manifestos in the lead up to June 8th. This offers a unique opportunity to ensure that key food production and consumption items are a part of all these manifestos.

The Soil Association is urging all political parties to put climate change, public health, soil protection and farm animal welfare at the centre of their food and farming vision - and to adopt the following eight policies in their 2017 manifestos. Stronger working across departments and with devolved administrations, and better resourcing of DEFRA, is also essential.

    1. Invest in healthy soils – through soil stewardship payments, mandatory soil testing, incentives for more grass and clover, and agroforestry
    1. Zero carbon farming by 2050 – a commitment to ensuring the agriculture and food sector plays its part in tackling climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement
    1. Funding for farmer-led research – allocate 10% of the current R&D budget for innovative agriculture projects led by farmers themselves
    1. Stronger support for organic farming – building on the current system to increase the amount of land farmed using organic methods to benefit the environment and improve animal welfare, and to meet growing consumer demand for organic food
    1. A ‘good life’ for all farm animals within 10 years – setting a new welfare framework for all farm animals supported by the mandatory method of production labelling, stronger regulation of farm antibiotic use, and public investment to help farmers make the transition
    1. Invest in child health – commit to creating an environment where it is normal, easy and enjoyable for children and young people to eat well
    1. Better public procurement of food – to widen public access to healthier, higher welfare, local and organic food and to build stable markets for farmers and growers
    1. Every hospital becomes a ‘beacon of good food’ – contributing towards the ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ called for in the NHS Five Year Forward View

                    

We have included more information on the four areas linked most directly to your award below. You can also find out more about all of the eight policies here.

 

Invest in child health – commit to creating an environment where it is normal, easy and enjoyable for children and young people to eat well.

Last year, the Health Select Committee called for ‘brave and bold’ action to improve the dietary health of UK children. The subsequent Obesity Plan included a set of actions that contribute towards this goal in England. The next Government should commit to fulfilling these actions and to building on the Plan. It should also commit to ongoing investment in school meals, including free school meals for all infants, a policy proposed by the independent School Food Plan in 2014, which received cross-party support upon its' publication. The next Government should make clear that it will not tolerate the younger generation growing up with the normality of regularly consuming unhealthy food or having no concept of where their food comes from.

Better public procurement – to widen public access to healthier, higher welfare, local and organic food, and to build stable markets for farmers and growers.

Significant programmes to improve the quality of food in the public sector, such as Government Buying Standards, Defra’s Balanced Scorecard and Food for Life Served Here, have demonstrated that public sector food standards can return substantial value to farmers and consumers. Such efforts deserve public support. The next Government should implement an ambitious procurement policy that requires use of Defra’s Balanced Scorecard across the public sector. All public procurement decisions should place a weighting of at least 60% on quality, with price not to exceed a 40% weighting. Caterers’ use of the Balanced Scorecard should be independently verified via schemes such as Food for Life Served Here. This would increase uptake of assurance schemes such as Red Tractor, LEAF, Marine Stewardship Council and organic, thereby delivering more sustainable food and farming, and incentivising a ‘race to the top’, with benefits for consumers, as well as British farmers and food businesses.

Every hospital becomes a ‘beacon of good food’ – contributing towards the ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ called for in the NHS Five Year Forward View

The NHS Five Year Forward View called for a ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ to ensure the future wellbeing of millions of people, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain. The next Government should commit to delivering this ‘radical upgrade’ by prioritising the food served in hospitals – every hospital should become a ‘beacon of good food’, putting in place an ambitious food and drink strategy. The dietary health of older people in hospitals, as well as in the community and in care settings, should be prioritised. Better nutrition for older people, along with access to appetising, nutritious food and social contact at mealtimes, can help prevent hospital admissions, alleviate the strain on the health and social care system, and would demonstrate that the NHS is ‘walking its talk’ when it comes to health-promotion and prevention.                   

A ‘good life’ for all farm animals within 10 years – setting a new welfare framework for all farm animals supported by the mandatory method of production labelling, stronger regulation of farm antibiotic use, and public investment to help farmers make the transition.

The next Government should commit to all farm animals leading a ‘good life’ as defined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council - meaning that animals can exercise natural instincts and follow their urges to care, graze, root and play. Incentives and funding for investment in farm infrastructure should be provided to help livestock farmers make the transition and to ensure investment in extensive, low-input systems a more attractive option for investors. Extending mandatory method of production labelling to all meat and dairy, as proposed by Labelling Matters, would provide consumers with the information they deserve, level the playing field for higher welfare products and grow this important market, allowing more farmers to shift from volume to quality production. The next government must put animal welfare at the heart of policies to tackle the antibiotic crisis including a ban on the route preventative use of antibiotics and targets to cut farm antibiotic use as proposed by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics

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