Federal Policy Committee launches Food and Farming Policy Working Group

The decision by Federal Policy Committee to launch a Food and Farming Policy Working Group comes at a time when food security is back on the global agenda for the first time in maybe three decades. The Russian invasion of Ukraine came at a point where grain prices were already causing problems in lower income importing countries. Last week WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the conflict could cause widespread hunger. Countries such as Egypt and Sudan are already struggling for supplies. With Russia also the world’s main exporter of nitrogen fertiliser, input costs have risen even faster than grain prices, making food shortages in 2023 and 2024 now almost inevitable.

How much is this a short-term shock and to what extent will markets settle down afterwards? How should we frame our own agriculture policy in this context? How do we balance food production with other land use priorities such as habitats for wildlife and places for human recreation? What about food quality and animal welfare? Can UK farming get close to net zero without simply offshoring emissions?

The Working Group will look at how we can improve our policy approach to food and farming and comes at a time when farmers believe that the government has abandoned them with support schemes being phased out and the replacements looking unattractive and impractical. In addition the remit will also look at the future of farming and fishing in the UK in respect of supply chains, food poverty, nutrition and healthy eating.

If you think that you have something to offer and would like to be a member of the working group, please apply using the form at this link by 27th April. Current applicants include very few women and no one from an ethnic minority background, and we do try to ensure that Policy Working Groups are diverse.

* Phil Bennion is the Chair of the Party's Federal International Relations Committee and former MEP for the West Midlands.

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8 Comments

  • Suzanne Fletcher 19th Apr '22 - 9:46am

    My main interests are very narrow so not going to apply to be on the working group, but wonder if the remit would cover the following, to make it worth me spending the time writing something for the group to look at, please?
    1. availability of gluten free ( and probably other) food in supermarkets and restaurants/eating out. Also training of staff around the issues (there are real horror stories around this).
    2. use of and promotion of Fairtrade.
    I’ll put some effort into writing if needed, but not sure if likely to be included?

  • Phillip Bennion 19th Apr '22 - 10:16am

    Hi Suzanne, I hadn’t given your first question on gluten any particular thought. Although healthy eating is in the remit, I’m not sure how much space would be given to such specific matters. It would probably warrant a short paragraph in the policy paper even if it was not in the motion. Fair Trade is an important aspect of agricultural policy and will feature, but the core issue of trade deals and the level playing field for UK farmers was dealt with in a specific motion to Spring Conference just a few weeks ago.

  • William Wallace 19th Apr '22 - 11:15am

    A cry on behalf of the allotment sector, in which I and many other Liberals happily labour – while often producing more than we can eat from our plots and sharing with our neighbours. I hope the group will not forget the value of small-scale food production,and flag up both the importance of encouraging education about horticulture in schools and the value of garden and allotment production. (And now I will go and pull some rhubarb.)

  • Farmers have plenty to contribute to combating climate change if it is economically beneficial to them. If we cut down our need for animal feeds we will have sufficient land for including trees, biodiversity and local food so farmers and farms can thrive. We must aim to be independent of fossil fuels by the end of the decade and farmers are essential for this

  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Apr '22 - 3:19pm

    Peter Hirst – there are probably no realistic alternatives to petrol/diesel fuel for farm machines available for several years. The German manufacturer of my diesel tractor is experimenting with batteries, but, given their power requirements and space constraints, tractors and harvesters may be the last form of mobile power unit (after bikes,cars, boats and later aircraft and lorries) to adopt green alternative energy sources. The best hope for the nearer-term would seem to be adapting diesel engines to accept plant-based fuel.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Apr '22 - 4:22pm

    @Yeovil Yokel
    This isn’t just about farm machinery but also factors such as greenhouse gas emitting livestock.

  • Tristan Ward 20th Apr '22 - 8:06am

    For belching cows, this may help.

    https://www.wired.co.uk/article/cows-climate-change-methane-stop

    Soil management is probably the biggest problem. Min-till” (non ploughing) is far more carbon efficient but requires a lot more glycosphate since weeds are not buried and need to be removed in another way. There is quite a lot of research going on with robots but I suspect that’s a few years off yet, certtainly for combinable crops which are very densely planted.

    The NFU gets this: they have set a carbon neutral target for UK agriculture for 2050.

  • Neil James Sandison 21st Apr '22 - 5:44pm

    when we see pigs being slaughtered for no good reason and Beetroots rotting on compost heaps for a lack of a market , We know a major shift in the farming industry is required . How are we going to wean farmers off red DERV and onto producing their own fuel by using anaerobic digesters and bio-fuels The farming industry did need to adapt to climate change .The war in the Ukraine has just increased the pace required to transition to new and more sustainable modes of agriculture .

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