The Soil Association has launched a new “route-map” designed to reinvigorate UK food, farming and land use post-Covid-19 and accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy.
The report, called Grow Back Better, echoes the name of the prime minister’s ‘Build Back Better’ pandemic recovery campaign, and details 10 key priorities for the government to adopt, which the charity said could deliver an “agroecological future”.
Looking a decade ahead, the Soil Association said the plan “identified the investment priorities and policy levers that will deliver change, and the pitfalls that must be avoided”.
Priorities include a cut in on-farm antibiotic usage by 90% to reduce the risks of pandemics and antimicrobial resistance, alongside a 25% increase in organic farming by 2030 and scaling up fruit, veg, pulse and nut production by investing in UK horticulture.
The plan also calls for a reduction in processed food sales, for bold public procurement targets, and to rebuild “resilient, regional food supply chains and stop the deforestation often associated with animal feed”.
The manifesto warned policy ‘lock-ins’ must be avoided. “During Covid-19 recovery, the wrong choices from policy makers could lock us into damaging directions of travel in food, farming and land-use”, it said.
These potential lock-ins could include climate initiatives that do not work for nature; trade agreements that lead us into a ‘race to the bottom’ in food and farming standards; bailing out polluters and productivity grants for farmers that “lock them into systems that don’t benefit animal welfare, wildlife and the wider environment”.
“The pandemic is nature giving humanity one last chance to stop, take stock and set a new course,” said Soil Association CEO Helen Browning.
“Our Grow Back Better road map sets out the urgent tasks ahead of us all to ensure food, farming and land use becomes a major part of the solution, rather than the huge problem it is often perceived as. The “wrong choices by policy makers at this moment could lock us into damaging directions of travel”, she added.
It comes as the government this week confirmed its “landmark” agriculture bill had passed into law after more than 100 hours of parliamentary scrutiny. The bill sets out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in the future with public money for “public goods.