Edible Horticulture Roundtable
Our Head of Horticulture, Ben Raskin, reports back from the Edible Horticulture Roundtable on 27 November...
Although George Eustice, Defra Minister for Farming, was present at the official Fruit and Vegetable Alliance launch dinner back in July, this was the first time he joined the Edible Horticulture Roundtable meeting.
Fortunately, we now have a minister with a horticultural background who understands the issues facing the sector. This meant we could spend our limited time with him getting right to the nub of the challenges we face.
The Edible Horticulture Roundtable is led by the Fruit and Veg Alliance, a diverse group of large and small growers and public health campaigners who are unified by a desire to get the nation growing and eating more fruit and veg. Each area of the sector has different challenges and opportunities, though many are areas of commonality.
The main areas of discussion at the Roundtable focused on:
- The future environmental land management scheme, and how horticulture fits in. We are keen that payments are not linked to land area (as is currently the case) but that support for environmental payments should be open to all growers. Alliance members, the Land Workers Alliance have submitted a scheme proposal recognising the public benefits delivered by horticulture, should it be accepted by Defra there is a hope that all members of the group will be able to contribute.
- Where public health fits within the Agriculture Bill. Although there was a recognition that this is an Agricultural and not a public health bill, the Alliance feels strongly that there should be some mention of the need for agriculture to support health, in particular this would recognise the role that fruit and vegetables play in improving public health.
- The Producer Organisation Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme, despite the uncertainty of future payment systems for agriculture one thing is more certain, this scheme will be reformed. The Alliance are pushing for a smooth transition between the current Fruit and Vegetable aid scheme and its successor and demanding space to improve the current scheme, widening its scope to support growers of all sizes to cooperate.
Time will tell how useful the Roundtable can be, but my sense after a couple of meetings is that there are already benefits from the conversations that we are having among the sector, and I hope that we will continue to be able to collaborate. Speaking directly to government at this crucial time in agricultural policy development is essential, this roundtable is a crucial mouthpiece for the horticulture sector and a vital link between the joint aims for boosting UK horticulture production and consumption. The next meeting is likely to be in March 2019.