More than 125 people attended a ‘Growing the Future’ rural policy workshop, held at the University of Gloucestershire, which revealed that British farmers get only 4.5% from all UK food sales and declared that ‘Brexit is happening now, not in the future’.
The workshop welcomed a range of delegates, including industry experts, practitioners and academics, to build on existing discussions to identify priorities and ways to embed them into policy thinking, and ultimately action, so that food, farming and environment policy is fit for the challenges that lie ahead in the next 70 years.
The interactive workshop was organised and led by the Countryside and Community Research Institute of the University of Gloucestershire, with help from external speakers and a wide range of partners to assist discussions across a number of areas.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, Stephen Marston, opened the conference followed by CCRI Director, Professor Janet Dwyer, who spoke about rural policy priorities for the next 40 years in a presentation entitled ‘Rural Policy Prospecting to 2060: Challenges and priorities’. Amongst other points, Janet offered ‘three key priorities’, which were ‘investing in basic resources (natural, cultural and social)’, ‘foster innovation, resilient businesses and communities’ and ‘rebuilding trust and respect between policies and people’.
Sue Pritchard, Director of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission made a presentation which focussed on ‘Who shapes rural policy? In her presentation, Sue outlined the purpose of the RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission ‘as listening to the voices that have not been heard so the Commission can make a fresh and valuable contribution’ and encouraged people to engage with the commission.
Professor Tim Lang from City, University of London’s Centre for Food Policy, presented ‘Food Brexit options: an inclusive trade and food policy?’. Tim set out the clear evidence that the current system is broken in terms of food policy with more going to logistics companies that the food producers as the drive is for cheaper food and not enough focus on public health and a sustainable food production system. He told delegates that farmers get only 4.5% from all food sales in UK.
George Dunn, Chief Executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, talked about family farms and security. Joy Carey talked about the social and environmental value of food and Henry Robinson, former president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) made a presentation entitled ‘Role for the Market’.
CCRI presentations included ‘Brexit agriculture: the case for a lived experience perspective’ by Damian Maye, Hannah Chiswell, Mauro Vigani and James Kirwan. Damian gave the audience the powerful message that ‘Brexit is a lived experience and is happening now’. He spoke about the ‘everyday Brexit’ experience within the cereal and horticulture sectors. In Horticulture there are already clear impacts on labour availability, while in the cereals sector future market mechanisms are a key area of concern
CCRI staff were very much involved in the five interactive workshops which formed the basis of the afternoon session, with Janet Dwyer, Damian Maye, Hannah Chiswell, James Kirwan, Matt Reed, Dan Keech, Chris Short, Jane Mills, Paul Courtney and John Powell all taking part. The workshops consisted of
1) Trade Issues;
2) Managing market uncertainty;
3) Food and energy futures;
4) Land, biodiversity and water management
5) Social value and wellbeing.
Across the 5 workshops, the plenary session revealed that there was a clear call for innovation both in policy, lines of communication and in the synergy between food and energy as well as land, water and biodiversity.
To round off the day, there was a panel session with David Drew MP, Julie Girling MEP, Simon Pickering (Green Party) and Sue Pritchard who discussed and synthesised the key priorities which emerged out of the day.
The key messages were:
- There is an urgent need for a new generation of entrepreneurs and knowledge exchange around different ways of working and achieving a resilient landscape;
- Diversity is key with a need to move away from a one size fits all approach to policy and regulation building on the excellent examples that exist in Gloucestershire and elsewhere in the country;
- The situation is complex but we need to value food and highlight the social value and well-being aspects of food and how it is produced.
Chris Short, CCRI Reader in Environmental Governance and organiser of the workshop, was delighted with the success of the workshop. He said:
“The workshop was a great success and all the delegates that I spoke to were very pleased with what was a thought provoking day which produced lots of interesting discussions and debates which will help towards developing a long-term agenda for Gloucestershire and beyond.”
It is envisaged that the outputs from this workshop will feed into a number of forums within and outside the county, including the recently formed RSA commission. The outcomes will be presented as actions for both policy and organisations based on the discussions during the event.
INFORMATION FOR EDITORS:
Growing the Future took place at the University of Gloucestershire Oxstalls Campus in Gloucester on Thursday 29th March.
Download the agenda
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