The UK Government’s consultation on the Future of Food, Farming and the Environment closed on 8th May, having received over 44,000 responses. Almost 6,000 of those responses were your personal views: the responses you sent made up over 10% of the voices clamouring to tell the Westminster Government what should come next. That’s a really big deal.
You’ve sent a clear message to Westminster’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove and his Department that you really want to see farming that restores nature alongside growing quality food, and you’re not alone. Polling by WWF just a week before the consultation deadline showed that 91% of the UK public want public money for agriculture to be spent supporting farmers to protect nature.
Nor did your interest and impact stop at Defra’s doors, or even England’s borders. You also wrote to your MPs in your thousands to let them know this matters to you, reaching not only 517 of the MPs in England, which was where most of the UK Government consultation applied, but together getting your message heard across 92% of all constituencies across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
That reach is important, because over the summer we expect public consultations in both Northern Ireland (with news reports suggesting it could be soon) and Wales too (here’s more about what the consultation should look at from our friends at Food Network Wales). There are vibrant and growing conversations on the future of our food systems, from field to fork, everywhere.
And, speaking of conversations, last month we invited you to get involved in the Scottish Food Coalition’s ‘Kitchen Table Conversations’. On 23 May, they’ll be launching the report of all the conversations had across Scotland, and calling on the Scottish Government to ‘Bring on the Food Bill’ and launch the long-promised public consultation in Scotland on their proposed law for a better Scottish food system.
We’re eagerly awaiting these chances to make sure all the relevant decision-makers hear our thoughts and to secure our wildlife and environment’s important place underpinning sustainable food and farming for the future.
Come the autumn, MPs from across the UK will debate a new Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons. Whilst it won’t set agriculture policy for the whole UK as farming is devolved, it will be the first legislative proposal about our farming and countryside, determine how much funding is available for everyone (and how much of that benefits nature) and be debated and voted on by MPs from all four nations.
It’s a chance for them to either uphold the positive environmental rhetoric we’ve heard on farming and nature from many of our Governments. Or to seek to weaken and undermine it, keeping our agriculture system as it currently stands, as the biggest driver of wildlife loss across the country, undermining our future ability to produce healthy, nutritious food.
We know that the Bill needs to be more ambitious than early proposals are suggesting it will be. Our food production depends on a healthy environment, so this law needs to enshrine a thriving environment at the heart of its purpose. We need all decision-makers across the UK to support high ambitions for our shared environment.
These consultations on the future of food and farming, and this forthcoming Bill, are just a few of a series of decisions being made across the four nations of the UK that could have the biggest positive impact on nature for generations. Transformative change is within our grasp, and we hope you’ll join us to push for it at every opportunity we get.
Which is why it’s so important be telling our MPs that the environment matters right now. As nature-lovers we need to keep pushing for high standards on the environment, whatever decisions are being made. We need our MPs to push that message, and through the debating and voting power they hold in Parliament hold the UK Government to account to secure an international reputation for those high standards.
Thank you for joining us at the start of this journey. Keep an eye on your inbox and campaigns update for news of the next steps and of course, if you’re not already, sign up to be a Campaign Champion.
In the meantime, why not swing by and see us, or visit a farm near you, and get to know a bit more about how your food is grown? Here's where you'll find us over the next couple of months:
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