OFC 2010: DEFRA food strategy at a glance

The Food 2030 document runs to 80 pages – but what are they key points that will affect farmers? Here is the strategy at a glance:

One of the key messages for farmers is that they are expected to: “Improve profitability, productivity and competitiveness, and to produce safe food sustainably and in line with what the market wants. Build a highly skilled and innovative sector. Manage risk and plan for climate change.”

What are the six core issues that the strategy is structured around?

– Encouraging people to eat a healthy, sustainable diet

– Ensuring a resilient, profitable and competitive food system

– Increasing food production sustainably

– Reducing the food system’s greenhouse gas emissions

– Reducing, reusing and reprocessing waste

– Increasing the impact of skills, knowledge, research and technology

What does DEFRA mean by “increasing food sustainably”?

The central message for farmers is that they need to produce more and impact less on the natural resources on which food production depend.

There is little detail of what this might involve but measures set out to achieve this include:

– CAP reform  – which DEFRA says should help to foster an internationally competitive industry without reliance on subsidy or protection, and one which does not distort international trade and the world economy

– Develop new technologies and techniques for sustainable agriculture and land use, and better knowledge transfer including through the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform

– Introduce an Agriskills Action Plan for the farming industry, training providers and Government to recognise existing and develop new skills, promote skills development and professionalization.

– Improving supply chain relationships, competitiveness and responsiveness to markets

– Encourage development and dissemination of sustainable production methods to increase agricultural output without undermining the natural resource base and avoiding large-scale land use changes. 

– Protect and enhance the farmed environment through initiatives like Environmental Stewardship schemes and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

What does the report say about livestock production and its contribution to climate change?

The report acknowledges that livestock production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally and there are some groups that advocate a diet with less meat as a way for consumers to reduce the environmental footprint of their diet.

But it says the evidence to inform appropriate consumer choices and policy responses is currently unclear. It points out:

– Ruminant livestock produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and accounts for about 4% of UK direct emissions. But not all types of meat have the same impacts, neither do all systems of production.

– Different types of livestock are responsible for different levels of emissions – the way livestock is fed, housed, and grazed all affect the level of GHG emissions.

– Livestock can also be part of agricultural systems that contribute to locking carbon into soil, and upland livestock production is often the only economically productive activity possible in such areas.

– Livestock farming also delivers environmental benefits. For example valued and bio-diverse ecosystems have developed to depend on grazing by livestock and these contribute to the traditional character of the UK countryside.

You can read the full DEFRA strategy or tell us your views on the forums.