These are the proposals in the manifesto, listed by the ministry. You may comment on the proposals, preferably with a view to selecting something for action. If you would like this to be considered as a project for further discussion as to the exact action desired, please advise in the comment.

Farming and Food Miles Aims

1. Focus on increasing domestic fruit and vegetable production with special support for small-scale producers. In the face of rising uncertainties, both economical (the exit from the EU) and environmental (the changing climate and the increase in unpredictable weather events), it is of the utmost importance that the focus is shifted towards food production and security. The UK is currently importing over 50% of its food and feed and is therefore heavily reliant on foreign markets. 10 This leaves Britain at the mercy of global economic trends and environmental fluctuations. Domestic fruit and vegetable production should therefore be increased, with special attention and economic aid given to small scale producers, who devote a greater proportion of their production to food, account for greater crop diversity and have the least post-harvest loss compared to larger farms. 11

2. Launch a public education campaign to change what we eat - less meat and more fruit, vegetables and pulses. While meat, aquaculture, eggs and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, their production uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study suggests *With ongoing environmental degradation at local, regional, and global scales, people’s accepted thresholds for environmental conditions are continually being lowered. In the absence of past information or experience with historical conditions, members of each new generation accept the situation in which they were raised as being normal. This psychological and sociological phenomenon is termed shifting baseline syndrome (SBS), which is increasingly recognized as one of the fundamental obstacles to addressing a wide range of today’s global environmental issues. that moving from current diets to one that excludes animal products has the transformative potential of reducing food’s land use by 76%, greenhouse gas emissions by 49%, acidification by 50% and eutrophication by 49% for a 2010 reference year. 5 Such a shift wouldn’t benefit just the planet, but also humans: given the global obesity crisis, a diet with less livestock produce and more vegetables and fruit has the potential to make both us and the planet healthier.

3. Tackle the use of farmland as a tax haven, reforming the tax system so benefits are tied to providing public benefits Land has never been so expensive in Britain, with prices up by 277% in a decade. There are many reasons for this. First, farmland is free from inheritance and capital gains tax, which encourages owners to hang on to it, making prices rise. Second, agriculture is a heavily subsidised industry, receiving billions of pounds each year from the EU’s common agricultural policy. It is therefore a perfect investment, both tax-free and recession-proof. Like a vicious circle, the more land prices increase, the less people are willing to sell - and especially with the constant housing shortage this country experiences, land with planning permission for development can be worth shockingly inflated prices. This is land that can sit still, barely used, receiving public money in the form of subsidies while producing very little public goods. In other words, a form of tax haven.

4. Introduce ‘Fertiliser Taxes’ and use the income to fund environmental clean-ups and organic conversion. In 1984 Sweden introduced a tax on mineral fertilisers to curb leaching of nitrogen into drinking water and the Baltic Sea. The tax targeted nitrogen, phosphorus and subsequently cadmium, and it applied to both importers and manufacturers, with no opportunities for reductions, amounting to about 20% of the cost of mineral fertilisers. The tax provided an incentive to reduce excessive applications, as well as promoting the use of nutrients from farm animals or encourage manure trade between livestock and arable crop farmers. Recent analyses found a positive correlation between this fertiliser taxation and a net reduction in nitrogen leaching of about 6%, corresponding annually to about 10,000 tonnes of nitrogen. Unfortunately in 2009, following the financial crisis, the tax was suddenly revoked under pressure from farmers. Today this remains a highly debated topic, with environmental NGOs advocating it and farmers opposing it. 12

5. Break the power of the big supermarkets through a much stronger competition regulator. The UK has a long history of investigations into the groceries sector by the Competition Commission. In a number of extremely long legal battles, started in 1999, the big supermarkets have been challenged several times and accused of preventing, restricting and distorting competition in a number of ways: from price fixing to holding undeveloped land to impede the entry by rival grocery retailers. However, the current situation remains very similar to how it was 20 years ago, with the groceries market in the hands of few large supermarket chains, whose business practices (including order cancellations, retrospective changes to supply agreements and use of cosmetic specification to reject produce) are major drivers of food waste .

6. Pay farmers a fair price for the food they produce in return for producing it much more sustainably. This is the principle behind “Fairtrade”: it is about better prices for those who produce goods, ensuring good working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade. But whereas most people would think of Fairtrade in connection with developing countries, the same should also be true close to home. By paying farmers a fair price for food that is produced sustainably, we can address and reverse the ecological damage caused by intensive farming techniques which are causing biodiversity loss, soil erosion, water pollution and unsustainable consumption of resources.

7. Fund support for zero-till and other types of farming which restore soil health. Tillage is the agricultural preparation of soil by mechanical agitation, such as digging and overturning. Tillage pulverises the soil exposing it to the rain and wind that act as strong eroding forces, which can contribute to the loss of up to 30-50% of the initial soil organic matter. 13 No-till farming, on the contrary, is a way of growing crops without disturbing the soil, which protects it from erosion and helps retain moisture, while also boosting soil biodiversity. However, tillage is crucial in removing weeds before planting a new crops, which is why no-till farming is dependent on the use of herbicides (like glyphosate), at least while alternative methods are developed.

8. 10% of every farm to be managed for wildlife through wide field margins, sown wildflowers, restored farm ponds and wetlands, etc. Over 70% of the UK’s land is farmed, so how this land is managed has a big impact on wildlife. But the opposite is also true. A healthy farmland requires insects to pollinate crops, birds and bats to control pests, trees and hedgerows to retain moisture and prevent nutrient run-off etc. A thriving natural environment fundamentally underpins our ability to grow food, but the intensification of farming has already led to a dramatic decline in wildlife. Over a quarter of all British birds are under threat, three-quarters of all flying insects have disappeared since 1945 and one in five British mammals is at risk of extinction. The countryside has never been so silent and so devoid of biodiversity as it is today, which is why it should be compulsory for every portion of land that is exploited for production to also provide essential habitats for nature.

9. All surviving remnants of wildlife-rich farmland complete legal long term protection as nature conservation areas. Roughly two thirds of England’s best wildlife sites are given legal protection as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. But for some habitats, such as the critically threatened wildflower meadows, this figure is nearer 50%. These are what is left today of England’s former wildlife-rich farmed landscapes. They urgently need to be given legal protection by Natural England. A programme is now needed to identify the remnants of wildlife-rich farmland (including arable land supporting important populations of birds, plants invertebrates etc.) which qualify as SSSIs, and to carry out the necessary legal process of protecting them. Ring-fenced funding is also needed to support the sympathetic management of these sites.

10.Launch a massive drive to reduce food waste at all points in the system. Food waste represents an ecological catastrophe of staggering proportion . In the UK, 10.2 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, 7.3 of which is household waste, equivalent to £13 billion worth of food each year. 14 Meanwhile, 8.4 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat. 15 Looking at the figures for food waste in the UK, it becomes apparent that it isn’t more or better fertilisers that are needed, or more land devoted to agriculture, but better use of the resources already available, starting from waste reduction at every level of the supply chain.

References:

9. Soga, M., Gaston, K.J. (2018). Shifting baseline syndrome: causes, consequences, and implications. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution16: 222–230.
10. de Ruiter H, Macdiarmid JI, Matthews RB, Kastner T, Smith P., (2016). Global cropland and greenhouse gas impacts of UK food supply are increasingly located overseas.
J. R. Soc. Interface 13: 20151001
11. Ricciardi, V., Ramankuttya, N., Mehrabia, Z., Jarvisa, L., Chookolingo, B. (2018). How much of the world's food do smallholders produce? Global Food Security17: 64–72
12. Andersen, M.S., (2016). Fertilizer tax in Sweden. Institute for European Environmental Policy. Available at: 
https://ieep.eu/uploads/articles/attachments/cd57d2c2-6c74-4244-8201-10c8fff4b7f6/SE%20Fertilizer%20Tax%20final.pdf?v=63680923242(Accessed 20/08/2018)
13. Scopel, E.,
et al. (2013). Conservation agriculture cropping systems in temperate and tropical conditions, performances and impacts. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 33: 113-130
14. WRAP UK (2017). [Online] Available at:
http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/unite-food-waste-fight (Accessed 21/08/2018)
15. FAO UN (2016). Voices for the Hungry. Available at:
http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4830e.pdf(Accessed 20/08/2018)

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Upland Ecology Aims
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Thursday, 20 June 2019