Tag Archives: farming

Why we need to talk about GM again

6850390469_85e52637c5_b (1)Between 1990 and 2005 I was heavily embedded in the genetic modification (GM) debate, as a member of one of the key regulatory committees for ten years, and then as deputy chair of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC).  AEBC recommended a public debate on GM crops, which reached 37,000 people through a variety of routes and excited a good deal of press attention. The result? Most people are uneasy, most scientists are not, and the economists thought there was little of consequence either way for the UK at that time. The effect on policy? Almost none.

Read more

How Michael Gove can unleash a new wave of farming entrepreneurs

English Longhorn cattle on Cissbury Ring, West Sussex, in winter

For farmers, change is a way of life. Weather is unpredictable. Consumer appetites change. Prices go up and down. Managing uncertainty and volatility goes with the job.

But the ability of farmers to keep bouncing back will soon be tested to its limits, and possibly beyond. Brexit will bring change of a scale and at a speed that will dwarf anything seen by the current generation of farmers. This could include changes to the availability and cost of labour, the size and terms of subsidy payments, the potential imposition of new import and export tariffs and, should certain trade deals be struck, increased competition from low cost food imports. Not all farmers will cope. Many are likely to fail. Read more

Why we need to look beyond subsidies to save UK farming

field agriculture farm crops england ukUK farming is in crisis. Forty per cent of farms make no profit. Farm debt is soaring. Farmers are taking home an ever decreasing share of what we spend on food and, over the long term, food prices have been dropping.

Many farmers are stuck in a cycle of working the land ever harder just to break even. This is taking a heavy toll on the asset that farming relies on most of all – nature –  as regular reports from the State of Nature partnership and the Natural Capital Committee make clear.

Read more

Brexit creates an opportunity to support UK food production and restore nature


Zwei Lämmer liegend auf einer WieseThis post is by the Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, second church estates commissioner and former secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

The UK agriculture sector has always sought to provide good quality food at a reasonable price, which is the very purpose of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). However, we cannot ignore that it has come at a price to many growers and that agriculture is under pressure. Read more

The government’s 25 year plan should mobilise private funding for environmental restoration

natural_investment_web_coverSince the EU referendum, there has been growing pressure for clarity over two things. First, how an independent UK will protect its natural environment, and, second, how we will pay for it, as most of the legislation that currently directs these areas comes from the EU.

Very soon, the government will be laying down the first major marker for its approach with its 25 year plan for the environment. The title is perhaps slightly misleading; it will not be a plan, rather an outline for how to develop a plan. But the signs are that it will contain some heartening aspirations and set out a strong framework. And above all, it will bring welcome clarity to an area where before there was only speculation and uncertainty.

Read more

What’s the post Brexit future for farming in the UK?

8062314639_373504dea0_kThis post is by Green Alliance’s chair, Dame Fiona Reynolds.

For the many people who care about the beauty of our countryside and the natural environment, this is the big question of our time. We know the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been a net negative for the environment, yet we also know that the majority of the UK’s rural landscapes will continue to be farmed. So now is the time to get some anchors in the ground about what should be the principles underpinning a new farming and food production policy, even if it’s too early to put the details in place. Read more

Natural markets: an idea whose time has come?

Sunset reflected in the meanders of the Cuckmere River, Cuckmere Valley, East Sussex.It’s heretical for a think tank to admit this, but our latest big idea is not really that big. It is in fact medium sized and achievable step from where we are now.  It’s an idea so obvious, that once you hear it, you’ll be surprised it’s not happening already. But it isn’t, we checked. Rather than coming up with another big idea for nature, Green Alliance, in partnership with the National Trust, has researched how to enable existing big ideas, around ecosystem services and natural capital, to translate into real changes on the ground. The result is the Natural Infrastructure Scheme (NIS), a new market mechanism which would mean farmers and other land managers could financially benefit from environmental improvements such as flood alleviation and habitat creation. We think its simplicity could lead to ‘payments for ecosystem services’ becoming a mainstream market, reversing declines in nature, and supporting new, environmentally beneficial approaches to farming in the UK.

Read more