• Stark warning from think tank
• Government support ‘essential’
• Farmers have key role to play
The government’s failure to pay farmers properly for looking after the environment threatens to leave the UK unable to produce enough of its own food, says an influential think tank.
Urgent actionmust be taken to support farmers by funding measures that help to mitigate climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature, says the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
Global warming means livestock are increasingly exposed to heat stress and the seasons are changing, says the IPPR. Pests and diseases are living longer in warmer winters, droughts are impacting crop growth and floods are increasing soil runoff and erosion.
Published last month, the think tank’s analysis also shows that:
• Trade deals struck since Brexit are undercutting British farmers and climate goals, while effectively exporting the UK’s carbon and ecological footprint elsewhere in the world.
• The UK’s food system is too wasteful – and skewed towards highly processed food which is damaging to human health and the environment.
• Food poverty is increasing with lower-income households disproportionately affected by food price rises and less able to afford a good diet
Calling for a transition to a more planet-friendly production system, the IPPR study says UK landuse needs to change, says the study.
But it warns that responsibility for the transition cannot be left to producers alone. Farmers are already grappling with a system that does not fairly reward them for their produce, it adds.
The report says a significant shift is needed to ensure the UK’s food security – including government support for farmers. A comprehensive strategy is needed to ensure food security and to reach net zero, it says.
The IPPR says £2.4bn a year is needed for the next decade for farmers to deliver. And it says trade deals should be strenghened so food imports are produced to the same standards as domestic produce.
Report co-author Lesley Rankin said: “The climate and nature crisis poses one of the greatest risks to the UK’s domestic food production, and the UK government has consistently failed to treat this threat with the urgency it deserves.
“If we are serious about ensuring food security and leaving our environment in a better state than we found it for generations to come, it is crucial we act immediately and involve farmers and communities every step of the way.”
The report calls for a long-term vision for the future of land and agriculture, which must reflect the views of farmers as well as consumers.
Researchers asked local communities panels how they felt climate change could be tackled in way that is fair to producers and the public.
Ms Rankin said: “Protecting our planet, boosting farmers’ livelihoods and food security go hand-in-hand. Now it’s on the government to act to put us on a path that provides a better life for us all.”
Lack of vision has ‘serious consequences’
Farmers have a key role in producing food and protecting the environment – but need government support to succeed, says the report.
The study was co-authored by Luke Murphy, head of the fair transition unit at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). He said: “The lack of a government strategy for our food and farming sector has serious consequences.
“It’s undermining our ability to produce food domestically, making farmer’s lives harder, and entrenching a food system that is wasteful, bad for our health, and damaging to the environment.”
A government spokesman said: “We are committed to backing our farmers so we can grow our economy, protect nature and deliver the food security that is needed.
“We have embarked on our next steps to deliver this, by committing to maintain the £2.4bn annual farming budget and investing in productivity and innovation on farms.”