The absence of any clear government plan for the future of our food and farming sectors outside the EU is alarming. The extreme form of Brexit that Theresa May’s government is pushing for could hit our family farmers and small scale food producers particularly hard.
Around 65% of total UK agricultural exports go to the EU, while around 70% of the UK’s imports originate from other EU countries. Removing us from the single market risks punitive tariffs on exports and imports, while an end to free movement would make it impossible to take on the seasonal migrant labour from EU countries so crucial to many farms.
Yet Brexit could be a unique opportunity to move towards an ecologically sustainable farming system; one that focuses on supporting family farms and relocalising food production, thereby creating thriving rural communities. We can also refocus land management to encourage biodiversity, improve animal welfare and help tackle climate change.
The lack of vision by government and the opportunities thrown up by Brexit are the basis for two reports commissioned by Molly. They aim to inform policy makers, farmers, food producers and rural communities, though are of interest to us all as the future of food and farming in the UK will help shape our economic, social, environmental and physical landscapes.
The first report is by The Soil Association, a leading and well-known charity promoting better food and farming. They also certify 70% of UK organic produce.