Government set five tests to rewrite agriculture policy

High standards for animal welfare, the environment and labour cannot be watered down post-Brexit as they need to be the bedrock of Britain’s new food and farming vision, the Soil Association has claimed.

The food and farming charity, founded in 1946, has set Theresa May’s government five tests to determine if politicians are prepared to give food and farming a higher priority than ever before.

It comes as many in the wider agriculture sector claim Brexit has given Britain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an ambitious and world-leading farm policy.

Among the five tests are “maintaining and strengthening food quality, environmental protection, animal welfare and labour standards”.

Fresh from participation in the first organic sector forum debate with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Soil Association has encouraged people to lobby politicians to curry support for a new policy.

The charity wants government to use a £2bn investment in hospital and school meals to make food procurement a “far more positive force” in the country. Meat and veg on the plates of both pupils and patients’ needs to “enshrine” British values around the countryside, wildlife and animal welfare, it said.

Government ought to put tackling climate change at the heart of new agricultural policy too, preferably by moving to zero carbon and resilient farming systems by 2050.

New trade agreements need to be compatible with the requirements set out in the Paris Climate Agreement and solutions to improve soil quality, store carbon and end fossil fuel dependence must be championed, it added. Small to medium-sized farms must also be protected under new trade deals, to ensure rich foreign corporations do not price them out of the market.

The Soil Association also wants more investment in child health to overturn budget health cuts that have deprived children of healthy food programmes which, it claimed, has piled pressure on the NHS with 10% of its budget now spent on diabetes.

What is Soil Association asking for?

1) To use a £2bn investment in hospital and school meals to enshrine British values around the countryside, wildlife and animal welfare
2) End public health budget cuts to improve child health
3) Make tackling climate change a central part of agricultural policy, by moving towards zero-carbon, resilient farming systems
4) Guarantee that high standards will be the bedrock of the UK’s vision for food, farming and the country
5) Invest in farmers and those who care for the countryside

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