UK needs radical recovery plan

13th May 2020

On the day the Agriculture Bill returns to Parliament, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) is calling for a radical recovery plan for UK’s food, farming and rural economy and urging the Government to take inspiration from the sector’s response to the Covid crisis and develop a ten-year roadmap to deliver a fair, sustainable food system by 2030.

In the last six weeks, food and farming systems and rural communities have shown huge resilience and adaptability. In the face of stark challenges and with astonishing speed, many businesses and communities have created approaches that not only address the problems of lockdown, but are greener, fairer to local communities and more considerate to nature. As the UK plans for recovery, FFCC, today announcing its launch as an independent charity, is calling for everyone with a stake in the system to support such innovation strategically and tackle the urgent threats to climate, nature and human health.

FFCC Chief Executive, Sue Pritchard, said:

“We are seeing examples of remarkable resilience, with people and businesses ready and willing to change. But there is a real risk that this will be masked by a short-term focus on getting the country back to normal. The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in our food system.

We’ve seen big gaps in availability of food, especially for the poor and vulnerable, and significant economic impacts on producers. This crisis demonstrates that people and business are ready to build back better. Government must use this new Bill as a basis for bold new policies which will restructure this sector post-Brexit, for future generations and for the future of our countryside.”

The FFCC’s priority for the next three years is to support a transition to ‘agroecological’ farming and fairer food systems. These combine food production with restoring the environment, for example through nature-friendly farming systems such as integrated farm management, conservation agriculture and organic. The new organisation is calling on leaders across food and farming to work together to rebuild around three common principles:

  • That radical change for a sustainable, resilient food and farming can be achieved within a decade, by 2030
  • To resource a fair and planned transition through local and national plans so no one is left behind
  • UK must invest in innovation and practical action on the ground – aligning resources across government and business for common purpose.

FFCC’s YouGov poll last month showed that just 9% of Britons want everything to go back to the way it was before lockdown. Today, it is launching a new survey of leaders across the food, farming and rural sectors, to gather insights from Covid-19 that can help shape the UK’s long-term recovery. Professionals working in the sector can take part in the Learning from Lockdown survey here. Responses are requested by midday on 19 May.

The FFCC’s new strategic programme will build on the recommendations of its landmark report, Our Future in the Land: supporting leadership in the food, farming and rural sectors; developing a land use framework and a 10-year farming transition plan to agroecology, resourcing this with an agroecology development bank; and securing resources for country and local programmes which establish more resilient and adaptable communities.

New research will be launched this autumn, to model the impact of adopting agroecology in the UK and set out a blueprint to transition farming and land use over the next decade. The new programme has been made possible through a grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, as part of its drive to create a more sustainable and fairer food and farming system.

Caroline Mason, Chief Executive of Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, said:

“We have funded the FFCC for the next three years because they can be the change agent we need to deliver a radical restructuring in our food and farming system, one that can protect and enhance our natural world, increase food security and establish the UK as a global leader for in agroecology.”