Food and farming policies “fettered by neoliberal economics” says SDP

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has published “Farms, Fields & Food” – its new Green Paper on agriculture and the countryside.

A party spokesperson said, “Farms, Fields & Food tackles the crisis in agriculture, the rural environment and Britain’s food system – a system which is harmful to animal welfare, public health, food security and degrades our fields, rivers and wildlife. For every £1 we spend on food, we spend another £1 in hidden costs. Successive governments have sacrificed long-term prosperity – our natural capital – for short-term gain.”

SDP Leader William Clouston said, “Farming and food has – rightly – become a massive political issue and so the SDP’s new Green Paper is timely. Our farmers are struggling, our fields and rivers are degraded and many fellow citizens find it hard to source good quality nutritious food. The government’s answer is to ignore these problems and rely even more heavily on food imports – a massive economic and strategic mistake.”

“We must stop deceiving ourselves. The crisis in our farming and food system is both an economic and a cultural problem – partly the marker of a throwaway society. We must face up to the true cost of healthy food and the need for trade policies that protect British producers and consumers.”

The Green Paper makes the case that the primary causes of our difficulties relate to the structure of our farming and food systems and the incentives policy-makers apply. The solutions, say the SDP, lie in facing up to the true cost of good food, the value of ecological restoration and the necessity of trade policies aimed at greater national food security.

In the Green Paper’s conclusion, the SDP states, “There is a broad consensus about the increasingly severe environmental, social and health problems arising from our food systems – so why have they not been addressed?

“There are two reasons why attempts to change the UK’s broken food system have never seriously been implemented.

“Firstly, governments have been too scared to challenge the narrative that all people want is cheap food and that they will not tolerate a ‘nanny state’ telling them what to eat. This narrative is simply not true. Research shows that citizens now want visible political leadership in this area and that there is strong public support for the bold interventions we propose in this paper.

“Secondly, other parties are fettered by neoliberal economic policies which prevent any meaningful attempt to tackle this issue. Free trade and open labour markets have deterred investment in training and innovation, increased our reliance on over-extended global supply chains, forced food producers to prioritise yield over sustainability, and sold swathes of our countryside into foreign ownership.”

The Green Paper advocates a comprehensive re-balance to achieve four targets:

  • Affordable healthy food and fair prices to producers
  • Sustainable farming and environmental restoration
  • Thriving rural communities and a small farm future
  • UK food security in a global market

Read the full Green Paper here

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