Category Archives: Other organisations

Future Of British Farming Outside The EU

 Six game-changing ideas for the future of UK farming policy  ()

 

Today, Monday 20 March, we have launched a new report, setting out six proposals for domestic agricultural policy after the UK leaves the EU. These are game-changing ideas that have the potential to transform farming and land use at the scale and pace required to meet multiple challenges – from tackling climate change and nature degradation to supporting rural livelihoods and improving public health. Every farming practice we talk about here already happens on the ground in the UK, but is currently the exception rather than the norm.

Our proposals are:

  • a national agroforestry strategy
  • investing in soil
  • a tipping point for organic
  • a good life for farm animals
  • support for farmer innovation
  • making the most of public procurement

 

There is a growing consensus on some of the key principles that should underlie new policy:

  • We need to maintain high environmental and farm animal welfare standards.
  • Public money should pay for public goods such as clean water, farmland wildlife, carbon storage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Government should maintain the overall annual farm payment budget of around £3.2 billion.
  • We need a joined up approach that looks at land in the round – farming, forestry, water, wilderness – taking account of public health, food poverty and international development.
  • Policies must work for farmers and growers, and help them move towards sustainable business models.
  • We need a renewed focus on supply chains to improve resilience, farmer incomes, and environmental sustainability.
  • Public participation in debate and decisions on the future of farming is critical.

What we really need now are some game-changing ideas – ideas that have the potential to transform the UK’s farming and land use on the scale and pace required.

Our report proposes six such ideas:

Proposal 1: a national agroforestry strategy

Agroforestry brings trees into fields. They can be in neat rows through crops, dotted through pasture like parkland, or planted closer together to provide cover for plants or animals.

Agroforestry is game-changing because it can increase yields and farm profitability, boost resilience through diversity, and deliver big environmental benefits at the same time. At scale, it would dramatically help mitigate soil erosion, nitrogen leaching, and biodiversity loss while increasing carbon sequestration. 

To deliver these benefits, the government should work with the agricultural, forestry and land use sectors to develop a national agroforestry strategy. This should include: 

  • A target of agroforestry on 50% of all farms by 2030.
  • Clear ownership and accountability within government.
  • Capital grants and maintenance payments.
  • Fiscal measures and procurement policies to grow the domestic market.
  • Incentives for longer term farm tenancies.
  • Investment in research, knowledge exchange and advice. 

Proposal 2: investing in soil

The fundamental importance of soil health to farm productivity, food security, climate change and public health has been neglected by government for far too long. Recent statements from UK ministers on soil health are welcome, but have not been matched by action.

The government’s existing soil health commitments provide a starting point for a new UK policy framework: the global 4 per 1000 soil carbon initiative, aiming to increase soil organic carbon by 0.4% each year; and the aim for all English soils to be managed sustainably and degradation threats tackled successfully by 2030.

Strong policies to restore and protect soil health in the UK’s post-CAP agricultural framework should include:

  • Soil stewardship payments to incentivise farmers to increase the organic matter in the soil – including through existing farm assurance schemes such as organic and LEAF.
  • Regular soil organic matter monitoring and reporting by farmers to form a well-maintained national database, alongside investment in soil health research, data collection and monitoring.
  • Encouraging soil health improvement by making it a requirement of tenancies that soil health is not degraded during their term.
  • A nitrogen budget for each nation of the UK – following Scotland’s lead.
  • Modelling and piloting of new mechanisms to lower nitrogen, such as fiscal measures.

 

Proposal 3: a tipping point for organic

The public benefits delivered by organic farming have been well documented by independent research over decades. They include more wildlife and biodiversity, healthier soils and carbon storage, flood protection, clean water, lower pesticide and antibiotic use, more jobs and healthier food.  

While only 3% of farmland in the UK is organic, British consumers are demanding more organic produce, with the UK organic food and drink market seeing four years of successive growth. With organic farmland more or less stable, much of this growth is being met by imports, particularly of raw materials for animal feed.

In some other countries, organic farming accounts for up to a fifth of production, and sets new norms for policy, business and the public. Reaching such a tipping point would be transformative. We propose an organic strategy for England, developed by government in partnership with the organic sector, which includes:

  • An expansion of organic promotion and marketing – including opportunities for export.
  • Maintaining, improving and expanding the organic conversion and maintenance payments, as currently operating under Countryside Stewardship for England.
  • A particular focus on increasing production of home-grown organic fruit and veg and animal feed, to meet demand and reduce the high reliance on imports.
  • Better procurement policies (see also Proposal 6).
  • Assessing the expansion of organic and other certification systems as a gateway to automatic eligibility for farmers to receive payments.
  • Research, innovation, knowledge sharing through ‘field labs’ and farming advisory services.
  • Encouraging agricultural colleges to offer more courses in organic and agroecological farming practices alongside new organic apprenticeships.
  • Maintaining the legal base for organic standards, ensuring alignment with the EU organic regulation.

 

Proposal 4: a good life for farm animals

Insisting on a good life for all farm animals as a core part of post-Brexit agricultural policy would be game-changing. It would mean switching to better farming systems, not just making tweaks, also brings benefits to public health through dietary changes.  

The Farm Animal Welfare Council defines three levels of welfare: a life not worth living, a life worth living, and a good life. A good life involves more than simply being free from pain or disease. It means ensuring animals have the choice to feel the sun on their backs and to follow their urges to care, graze, root and play.

The scale of indoor, intensive farms is increasing, pushing out smaller family farms to make way for industrial systems that affect local communities and the environment as well as the animals themselves.

We propose that the UK sets the ambition that all farm animals should have a ‘good life’ within ten years. Hand-in-hand with stronger regulation, this will require public investment to help farmers adjust their infrastructure and businesses. This will require:

  • Defining a good life by urgently supporting the development of a rigorous framework that can score farms, supply chains and assurance schemes against the tiers set out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.
  • Mandatory method of production labelling to empower consumers, level the playing field and allow more farmers to shift from volume to quality production.
  • Banning the routine, preventative use of antibiotics in livestock farming and strict targets to reduce farm antibiotic use 50% by 2020, and 80% by 2050.
  • Incentives and funding to make the transition to extensive, high welfare farming systems, ensuring such systems are the most attractive option for farmers and investors.

 

Proposal 5:  back farmer innovation

The success of UK agriculture post-Brexit will depend on innovation by farmers. Policies should recognise and support this.

The starting point is that thousands of UK farmers already investigate, experiment, design and develop. Helping them share the risk and increase the rigour of this would benefit all of agriculture, at relatively low cost.

The UK spends around £450 million a year on agricultural research and innovation. Only a fraction of this, perhaps as little as 1%, goes to practical projects led by farmers. We propose:

  • A dedicated farmer innovation fund with a budget of at least 10% of the UK’s public agricultural research and development budget.
  • Innovation support services to help farmers apply and make the most of new funds, building on experience from other countries of doing this through the European Innovation Partnership (EIP-Agri), and of home-grown initiatives such as Innovative Farmers.
  • Rewarding practical research by incentivising individual researchers and institutions to pay more attention to the impact of their research, for example, through awards schemes for researchers working on farmer-led projects; training; and involvement of farmers and practitioners in reviewing research grant applications.

 

Proposal 6: making the most of public procurement

Making the most of public procurement could have a transformative impact. The UK public sector serves some 3.5 million meals each weekday across settings as varied as schools, nurseries, care homes, hospitals and prisons. In total, the public sector spends £2.4 billion each year procuring food and catering services across the UK.

While the cost of sourcing higher quality ingredients is perceived as a barrier, this can be counterbalanced by re-formulating menus. 71% of public sector institutions meeting Food for Life Served Here criteria report the implementation was cost neutral and 29% report overall cost savings. Research by the New Economics Foundation demonstrated £3 in social return for every £1 invested in Food for Life, with most of the benefit experienced by local businesses and local employers.

The UK could improve the health and food habits of the next generation by further upping ambitions for school food. It could also help drive demand for food that meets the highest standards, helping to achieve economies of scale in processing and lowering consumer prices. Government should help make this happen by:

  • Implementing the Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector – not just central government.
  • Requiring public procurement decisions to place a weighting of at least 60% on quality, with price not to exceed a 40% weighting.
  • Comparing the cost-effectiveness of delivering public benefits through direct agri-environment payments to farmers compared with growing the demand for assured products such as organic through public procurement – with a view to topping up public catering budgets where cost is a genuine barrier.
  • Using schemes such as Food for Life Served Here for independent verification, to increase the uptake of assurance schemes and grow the market for more sustainable farming and food.

 

Let us know what you think about these proposals. 

Download the report summary here or the full report here.

Preserving the Harvest

 
Join us for a fun evening of preserving at South Square Centre in Thornton.  We will explore a range of techniques including lacto-fermentation, dehydration, pickling and jamming.  

We will concentrate on apples following our community fruit share, but will also look at other seasonal fruit and vegetables.

All ingredients plus snacks and drinks are included.  You are very welcome to bring along your own gluts as well.

Book Here

 
 

Visit Those Plant People – Saturday August 19th

Please join us for a visit to Those Plant People in Steeton on Saturday 19th August, arriving for 10am.

Those Plant People are Andrew and Pippa. They run gardening courses at Fern Cottage throughout the year to help you move from amateur to confident gardener. They also provide a gardening maintenance service.

They also grow and supply their own hardy herbaceous perennial plants, grown and tested in their own borders, and use them in their garden designs as well as selling at specialist plant fairs all across Yorkshire.

Tea, coffee and cakes will be available, free to WYOG members.

Directions.
If you are coming from Keighley come along the B6265 through Utley. As you are entering Steeton there is a rock on the left with ‘Steeton with Eastburn’ written on it. We are the first drive on the left less than 100m past the rock. The drive is marked ‘Stiverton House’.

If you are coming from Skipton(A629) or Ilkley(A6034) take the turning off the roundabout signposted Steeton and Silsden train station and carry on up station road until the traffic lights. Turn left at the traffic lights along Keighley Road, the road bears to the right round a bend then it is the next driveway on the right. The drive is marked Stiverton House.

Please park in front of the main house or on the cobbled area.

If you are coming by train walk up Station Road to the traffic lights, turn left and walk along Keighley Road. The road bends to the right and we are the first drive on the right, marked Stiverton House. It is about 10-15min walk. 

The address is:
Fern Cottage
Stiverton House
Keighley Road
Steeton
West Yorkshire
BD20 6QR

If you get lost you can contact 
Pippa Chapman 07704178585

Look forward to seeing you there!

Bracken Hall Summer Events

15th July: The Bee Event – explore the hives, honey tastings & sales, bee-friendly gardening, wild bee info. 12-4pm
22nd July: Guided Walk. Crook Farm & Baildon Moor. 10am start at BH
26th July: Wild Wednesday!
NB Wild Wednesdays are particularly suitable for younger children (& those who like countryside crafting & activities). They run from 2 to 4pm
2nd August: Wild Wednesday! (see above)
5th August: The Big Butterfly Count. Ties in with Butterfly Conservation’s annual national survey. Experts will be on hand to help you spot & identify butterflies in the garden & in the treetops. 11am-4pm
9th August: Wild Wednesday! With added butterflies!
16th August: Wild Wednesday! 23rd August: Wild Wednesday!
25th August: Guided Family Walk. Meet at Bracken Hall at 10.30am
30th August: Wild Wednesday!
8th-17th September: Saltaire Festival. Special activities each Saturday & Sunday. 8th September: Bat talk then walk with bat detectors. 6.30pm.
All events are FREE! (But donations welcome)
Photograph this sheet on your phone so it’s always handy!
All children to be accompanied by a responsible adult
Bracken Hall Countryside Centre, Glen Road, Baildon, BD17 5EA Glen Road, Baildon, BD17 5EA
Follow us on Facebook, phone 07933 355 753, or visit http://www.friendsofbrackenhall.org.uk/ for updates
NB Bracken Hall is open every Saturday & Sunday, 12-4pm

New publication from Garden Organic – The Principles of Organic Gardening

What are the fundamental principles behind organic gardening? We know about not using toxic chemicals, but in truth there is more, much more, to creating a resilient and healthy natural growing space.

Garden Organic is pleased to announce the publication of a new booklet which neatly summarises the five organic gardening principles. Feed the soil, encourage wildlife, use resources responsibly, avoid harmful chemicals and keep your growing area healthy. Based on over 60 years of research, the easy to read Principles explains the thinking behind each of the above.

The booklet aims to help you your own growing methods, so that you can progress along the journey towards becoming truly organic. Based on the original Organic Gardening Guidelines, it has helpful Do’s and Don’ts, plus new sections and beautiful illustrations. “This should be a best-seller,” writes one member. “It is packed with important information.”

The Principles of Organic Gardening can be downloaded free of charge from gardenorganic.org.uk/principles. Alternatively, we can send you a copy by post, all we ask is a suggested donation of £2.50 to cover postage and package. You can do this here, selecting ‘Donation for Principles of Organic Gardening’ from the drop down options.

Posted: 
Monday, 5 June 2017

Is organic food better for you?

A question which has intrigued those on both sides of the organic fence. Instinctively, organic growers feel that their produce – grown without chemicals and using natural fertilisers – must be safer and more nutritious. We look at research which has been published in the past year, which reveals the difference between organic and conventional produce.

The Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF) 2016 Open Event

The Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF) are planning their 2016 open event. The event is free and is an opportunity for those interested in pesticide residues in food to learn more about the work of the committee and its role in the national food testing programme.

The event will be held on Wednesday 19 October at the National Railway Museum, York.

The theme for this year’s open event is past, present and future of pesticides in food, there will be talks from:

Dr Paul Brantom, Chairman of PRiF, introducing the work of the committee and explaining how the committee check results against safety and legal requirements.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will explain how foods are selected for the programme and how this has changed over time, including information on the latest results and the current testing programme.

Dr Sadat Nawaz and Mike Dickinson from Fera Science Ltd will explain how samples are tested for a wide range of pesticides at low levels, including safeguards on the quality of results.

Chris Wallwork from Agrii Ltd who gives technical advice to farmers and Christian Maltby from Barfoots of Botley, one of the UK’s leading vegetable growers, will give seperare talks explaining how UK farmers adapt to meet the requirements of the law, their customers and the consumer.

We would be very grateful if you could pass information about the event to anyone you think may be interested using, any social media tools that may be available

To book tickets for this free event please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-expert-committee-on-pesticides-in-food-prif-open-event-2016-tickets-26028769751

Rachel Merrick Pesticides Policy TeamHealth & Safety Executive

Chemicals Regulation Division, Ground Floor, Mallard House,

Kings Pool, 3 Peasholme Green, York, YO1 7PX.

(:Tel: +44(0)2030 281222 | ext.1222 |

*:rachel.merrick@hse.gov.uk

www.hse.gov.uk/CRD

Follow HSE on Twitter @H_S_E

PRiF logoJoin us for the PRiF Open Event 2016 in York. For more details or to book a ticket visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-expert-committee-on-pesticides-in-food-prif-open-event-2016-tickets-26028769751

Biodynamics, Revitalizing our Earth, one Garden at a time Conference 2016 at Garden Organic!

Gardeners  are the natural stewards and protectors of our Earth, and how we garden has never been so important.
Biodynamic gardening methods provides a much needed catalyst for regeneration, which revitalizes soils, nurtures bees, provide safe havens for wildlife,  and keep our precious bio-diversity alive.

The aim of biodynamics is to maximize the inherent vitality of our soils and gardens through its use of herbal compost and spray preparations, by harnessing the subtle cosmic forces of nature, building natural resilience with open pollinated seed, and by creating a garden full of harmonious life, which becomes self-sustaining .

Want to discover more?
Packed with hands on practical advice,  workshops and captivating lectures, our conference  devotes itself to biodynamic approach to gardening, and how to take your organic gardening to a new level of holistic health.

Book your ticket here.
Look forward to seeing you in Sept!  – Warm wishes – Jessica Standing (BDA Office UK)

 

Release of damning report on UK Soil Health

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has just released a damning report on UK Soil Health.

“…. some of the most productive agricultural land in the country is at risk of becoming unprofitable within a generation due to soil erosion” cites the report. “(Although) the Government says it will ensure that all soils are managed sustainably by 2030… our inquiry suggests that the Government’s actions do not match its ambition, and casts doubt on whether we are on track to achieve the 2030 goal.”

The report points out that “Soil, water and air are all essential to human life and society—but of these three, soil is often the forgotten component. Yet soil is crucial to agricultural production, climate change mitigation and adaptation, urban development, and flood risk management. Neglecting the health of our soil could lead to reduced food security, increased greenhouse gas emissions, greater flood risk, and damage to public health.”

Concerns over soil health include

  • Around 300,000 hectares of soil are thought to be affected by legacy contamination from the UK’s industrial past. However, local authority duties to clean up contaminated land are compromised by Defra withdrawing capital funding. This presents the real danger that contaminated sites are being left unidentified, with consequential public health impacts.
  • Soil is a massive carbon sink, storing three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. Soil carbon is particularly concentrated in peatlands. The UK’s arable soils have seen a worrying decline in carbon levels since 1978, with widespread and ongoing decline in peat soil carbon. At COP21 the Government signed up to a scheme to increase soil carbon levels by 0.4% per year. However, methods to increase soil carbon are not implemented to their full potential. The Government needs to set out specific, measureable and time-limited plans to meet the goal to increase soil carbon, as well as taking take tougher action to tackle land use practices which degrade peat, such as burning of blanket bogs.
  • The Government relies on ‘cross-compliance’ rules associated with farm payments to regulate agricultural soil health. However, the rules and their implementation are not sufficient to support the Government’s 2030 ambition to manage soil sustainably. Crucial elements of soil health, such as structure and biology, are not assessed at all. The rules are accompanied by a minimalistic inspection regime which Defra aims to reduce further. Moreover, the rules focus primarily on preventing further damage to soil, when an effective system would also focus on restoration and improvement of soil health.
  • The UK lacks an ongoing national-scale monitoring scheme for soil health. Many indicators of soil health change slowly, so it is appropriate to measure only every few years—but successive Governments have neglected to establish a rolling scheme to monitor soil health.

The Government has an ambitious goal to ensure that all soils are managed sustainably by 2030. The report claims that current policy does not put us on a trajectory to meet this goal. Further action is required to back up the Government’s laudable words on soil health. The Government should use its upcoming 25-year environment plan to propose policies to strengthen soil protection, so that policies are not focused merely on damage limitation but encourage restoration and improvement of soil quality & organic matter.

Posted on Garden Organic site:
Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Glyphosate victory

18 months ago, Monsanto’s vast chemical-agricultural empire was rock solid.

Now, after over 2 million of us ran 20 campaigns, with millions of signatures, messages, phone calls, stunts, advocacy meetings and media stories… the future of the ‘Monsanto model’ is actually in question!!

The European Union just refused to grant Monsanto a new license for its flagship product – the pesticide glyphosate. This is massive – glyphosate accounts for up to a third of all Monsanto’s revenue!

“Looking to where we were in the beginning of this year and where we are now, Avaaz is indisputably the driving force of the fight for glyphosate discontinuance.”
Pavel Poc, Vice-Chair of the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee, and key leader of the glyphosate fight

Collage Monsanto model

This is far from over. But it’s an utter game-changer for countries like Germany, France and Italy to challenge the basis of Monsanto’s entire business model.

Avaaz delivers glyphosate petition at the EU parliament
Avaaz petition delivered to European Parliament

We haven’t been knee-jerk anti-pesticide. Our campaign calls for a suspension until independent science determines the safety of glyphosate. We’ll keep fighting, but if the EU allows 18 months for a new scientific process to weigh in, and we can ensure that process is truly independent, we could win this!!

We can also use the next 18 months to focus scrutiny on the global environmental impact of the Monsanto model, which is turning the surface of our planet into strange, toxic “biodeserts” where only one genetically modified Monsanto crop can grow.

Like with climate change and the Paris agreement, Avaaz has mobilised people on this issue at an unprecedented scale – we’ve taken the fight against Monsanto to a whole new level, and now it’s up to all of us, over the next 18 months, to win it.

First big oil, now Monsanto. We are taking on the dragons of our world. But if we stick together, and choose to believe and act, we can do anything.

With hope and determination,

Ricken, Alice, Bert, Pascal and the whole Avaaz team

PS – For more detail on all the tactics, meetings, and story of Avaaz’s glyphosate campaigning in the last year, here’s a summary.


Avaaz.org is a 44-million-person global campaign network
that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.