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Policy Launch – A Place at The Table

Landworkers’ Alliance post-Brexit Policy launch

Download the Report Here

The Landworkers’ Alliance are launching our post-Brexit policy recommendations outside Defra’s offices -17 Smith Square, London – at 1.00pm on Friday 21st April. Featuring a dining table promoting the high-quality fresh produce of our members, the launch highlights the need for small-scale and family farmers to be offered a ‘place at the table’ in upcoming negotiations over the future of UK agriculture policy.

The launch will feature the release of our comprehensive 20-page report outlining the LWA’s key policy proposals for re-orientating agricultural support to deliver high quality food to UK consumers while building an environmentally, socially and economically resilient farming industry.

Ed Hamer, LWA policy spokesperson, says ‘The Landworkers’ Alliance has been campaigning for the past five years for greater recognition of the role small-scale and family farmers play in feeding the country. The UK’s exit from the Common Agricultural Policy provides the most significant opportunity in a generation to reverse the inequalities of area-based payments and replace them with a truly progressive policy framework that genuinely supports more farmers and better food.’

As we leave Europe and the opacity of the CAP behind we’re confident that UK taxpayers will no longer tolerate farmers being paid simply for owning land. We believe the farm support budget could be targeted much more effectively in providing the research and infrastructure necessary to enable farmers to supply quality produce to local markets. This model does not depend on UK consumers paying more for high quality local food – it does however depend on more effective regulation of the industry to ensure farmers receive a greater share of the food pound.’

Download the Report Here

Raw Text Results – British Agricultural Policy Member Consultation

Click the links to access the full text results of the LWA British Agricultural Policy Member Consultation.

  1. Focus on National Food Security
  2. Direct public money to affordable food and good farming
  3. End the discrimination against small farms
  4. Create and maintain decent jobs in farming
  5. Improve environmental and welfare standards
  6. Invest in farmer-led research for resilient solutions
  7. Build markets that work for farmers
  8. Democratize agricultural policy making

Towards a People’s Food Policy

In October 2015 grassroots food and farming organisations in the UK began a process to create a People’s Food Policy for the UK. Stewarded by the Land Workers’ Alliance, the aim of the project is to engage in a process from the ground up to articulate a vision of a fairer food system for all, and how it can be realised.

The process is intended to be carried out in a participatory, inclusive and grassroots way in order to provide a platform to a) vision what kind of a dignified and just citizens’ food system we need across the UK b) to articulate concrete policy recommendations that would be included in a National Food and Farming Policy c) for this paper to be used as a toolkit to support, organise and mobilise around moving towards a better food system in the UK. Continue reading

Some thoughts on the Implications of Brexit

Matt Lobley, Associate Professor in Rural Resource Management at the University of Exeter, shares his thoughts on the EU Referendum. The views expressed here are his own.

Regardless of the decision on June 23rd this year, it cannot be assumed that the current model of direct income payments for farmers will continue indefinitely in its current form. Anyone who tries to tell you that they know what will happen is at best exaggerating and at worst deceiving themselves as well as you. We often look to the past to offer a guide to the future. However, no member state has ever left the EU and even if they had, would the withdrawal of a small central or southern European state for example, be a good guide to the implications of the UK exiting? Probably not. So, to a degree we are in the dark, although there certainly is room for informed speculation.

Let’s assume for a moment that the UK remains a member of the EU. Given the importance of agriculture to the EU and the strength of the agricultural lobby in some member states, it seems likely that support will continue, albeit quite possibly at a reduced level and ever more conditional on farmers delivering a range of additional environmental goods and services. It is a hard argument to make that we give farmers large amounts of tax payers’ money just because they are farmers or because they enjoy their particular way of life. Public support, quite rightly, recognises the role farmers play in managing our environment as well as producing food.

If the UK withdraws from the EU the future is less certain. Some level of financial support to farmers is likely to be ongoing but it is not known if this would be a similar level of support to a similar number of recipients as currently. Although politicians on both sides of the debate are ‘promising’ on-going financial support at existing or even higher levels, in a UK outside of the EU payments to farmers would be jostling with the need for cash injections into the NHS, increases in the schools’ budget and so on. Whatever the intention of politicians, it is not difficult to foresee a future where farm support fluctuates and is politically vulnerable in a way that it is not while we are members of the EU.

Some would argue that by leaving the EU UK agriculture would enjoy a future unencumbered by the rules and regulations that it currently faces. Really? Agriculture is unique. Farmers are the largest group of natural resource managers on the planet. Their decisions influence the appearance and quality of the environment; soil health and water quality; habitat for other species; greenhouse gas emissions; the welfare and quality of life of livestock and the food we eat. Of course agriculture is going to be highly regulated. Why would it be any other way? Yes, it could be done in better, smarter ways but regulation in general is not going to go away. Environmental policy on the other hand may well be at threat, with the risk that environmental improvements are reversed and species and habitat decline continues.

If we withdraw from the EU it is likely that land prices will fall, in the short term at least. Whether the fall will be sufficient to free up the land market and offer opportunities to people with only modest levels of capital is unclear. The price of agricultural land bears little relation to the financial returns available for using it to produce food. In part it is a reflection of the financial support available to farmers via the CAP. So if we leave the EU and the CAP land prices may fall. However, much would depend on the type of financial support package that replaced the CAP. Short term uncertainty would probably see land prices fall but in the longer term the generous tax reliefs associated with agricultural land and property, the fixed supply of land and whatever support arrangements were put in place would, in all likelihood, prevent significant falls in land values.

So that leaves trade, a subject on which I can claim little expertise, so my comments will be brief. The USA is already one of our most important export markets so membership of the EU doesn’t appear to be holding us back. If we leave we could, of course, negotiate many new bilateral trade agreements but it could take many years to conclude agreements. Hopefully we would still be exporting to the countries closest to us, as we are at the moment, but here again there would be deals to be negotiated.

So, these are my thoughts on the implications for agriculture of remaining in or leaving the EU. I don’t know what will happen but I can see likely tendencies. What is more clear is that the world of the 1950s and 60s has gone and it is not coming back. We live in an increasingly internationalised world and if the UK is to continue to exist as part of the international order we will remain subject to international agreements. The EU in general and the CAP in particular are far from perfect but as members we can play a part in their evolution.

Matt Lobley is Associate Professor in Rural Resource Management at the University of Exeter.

Launch of Draft Animal Power Network

The Landworkers’ Alliance will be launching the UK’s first Draught Animal Power Network (DapNet) on Sunday 3rd April at Tinkers Bubble in Somerset. The day will include demonstrations of horse-powered field work & logging, presentations of modern and traditional draught-powered tools and a seminar to discuss the potential of a network for connecting and training draught-animal landworkers in the UK. The day will also offer an opportunity to have a go at leading or driving a working horse and using draught-powered cultivation tools.

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Seats available on LWA coach to COP21 in Paris

The LWA have block booked a coach from London to Paris to attend the COP21 Climate Change March. There will be a mass mobilisation in Paris on the 12th December following the Climate Change talks.

La Via Campesina are organising a few days of various conferences and will join in the mass demonstration. If you would like to know more about the conferences email us at landworkersalliance@riseup.net.

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Reply to Guy’s newsletter – Veg boxes; the vision & the reality

Below is a reply from Ed Hamer, on behalf of the LWA to ‘Guy’s newsletter – Veg boxes; the vision & the reality’ published on Riverfords website: http://blog.riverford.co.uk/2015/04/24/guys-newsletter-veg-boxes-the-vision-the-reality/

 

Dear Guy,

I read with interest last week’s newsletter “Veg boxes; the vision & the reality”. Your delight with the quality of your hungry gap boxes is clearly a matter of pride and indeed illustrates just how far Riverford has come from the vision of the first tiny box schemes in the UK.

I myself am a founder and full time employee of a “tiny box scheme” (90 boxes a week). We are in fact a community supported veg-box scheme, one of over 200 CSA’s currently trading in the UK. In common with all CSA schemes our customers want more from their fresh organic vegetables than simply low cost and convenience. They commit to support our farm throughout the entire growing season, including the hungry gap, because they know that farming is a year round occupation and the work doesn’t stop when the veg does.

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FarmHack UK

On the weekend of the 18th & 19th April more than 120 farmers & growers descended on Ruskin Mill farm, Gloucestershire, for the launch of Farmhack UK. Farmhack is an initiative born out of the Greenhorns young farmers movement in the U.S. that aims to bring together farmers, growers, engineers and designers to create appropriate scale farm tools for a new generation. The Ruskin Mill event was organized by The Landworkers’ Alliance and was the first Farmhack event to be held outside north America.

grain mill

Fergus’ bike powered grain mill (photo by Indiefarmer.com)

Helped largely by the fine spring weather the event was a fantastic success. Following the opening session in the Ruskin Mill field kitchen on the Saturday morning everyone walked up the hill for a series of practical demonstrations of home-made farm machinery. First up was a demonstration of a bicycle-powered grain mill, designed and built by Fergus Walker of the Fife Diet. The mill uses a bicycle to power a flexible drive shaft that is geared to drive two opposing mill stones. The grain is fed into a hopper in the top of the mill chamber after which the milled grain drops into a bowl underneath – ready for baking!

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Small farms Productivity Survey

How productive is your holding? “A Matter of Scale” is a survey of the productivity of small-farms being carried out by the Landworkers’ Alliance in conjunction with Coventry University, until April 26th. We invite anyone earning at least part of their livelihood from 20ha (50 acres) or less, as opposed to farming purely for subsistence, to take part. A link to the online questionnaire can be found here https://coventry.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/amatterofscale

To here a little about the survey click here for a short video.

Here are six good reasons for taking part in the survey:

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