Following the Defra protest, Maria Eagle (the Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA from the Labour party) asked to meet a representative from The Landworkers’ Alliance, to discuss our campaigns and the lack of support given to small scale producers. Jyoti Fernandes and Ed Hamer went along to discuss our vision of agriculture in the UK.
Unless Labour were to be voted in, the most important thing she can do to help us at the moment is to question Owen Paterson’s policies and actions. She can also try to get some of our recommendations into the Labour party manifesto.
Maria seemed somewhat unimpressed with the NFU and sympathetic to our analysis of them being pro agro-industrial farming and supporting landowners rather than land workers.
We went through the policy recommendations set out in our briefing sheet with her and she gave us plenty of time to go through them in detail.
Here are the main points that were raised:
- Comprehensive food policy: this is about getting the concept of food sovereignty into the language they are using within the department.
- CAP reform: She understood immediately about the unfairness of the CAP payments asking, in particular, for more details about how the small farm premium would work.
- Core production funding stream: She seemed receptive to the idea of core funding for start ups, understanding how important they are, but wanted more of an idea of what the uptake would be like.
- Free trade protection: With regards to free trade, we presented the possible actions that could be taken within the WTO framework, and she wasn’t sure how they could be pragmatically enacted.
- Agroecological Research: She immediately understood the bias towards research for industrial agriculture and seemed supportive of us bringing more details together with a proposal for funding more appropriate research.
Things that it became apparent that we should have more info on:
- Good analysis about the cost of food issue – answers to “people want cheap food”
- Some sort of quantification of the demand for start ups in agroecological farming
- Some stats on how much we could produce
- A briefing sheet on some basic facts debunking the myth that industrial ag is needed to feed the increasing population.
One of the main successes of the meeting is to get our voice into the farming debate- there has been a massive hole in people representing our type of farming. Much work to do, but an incrememntal step to getting our voice heard. We have received some funding which will go towards researching some of the points raised above, so that we can form a clear argument using case studies and quantitative data.