Wales could set food & farming standard for UK post-Brexit, claims briefing

Wales could set food & farming standard for UK post-Brexit, claims briefing
Credit: Antony McAulay

A new briefing from the Food Research Collaboration argues that Brexit could be the “starting point” for a fresh approach to food and farming in Wales.

This, it said, could set the standard for the entire United Kingdom.

Much has been made of the risks Brexit poses to Welsh food producers, especially its upland lamb and beef farmers.

However, the briefing argues that Wales has a forward-looking government with several innovative pieces of legislation that could support a transition to fairer and more environmentally sustainable farming and food production, if political authority and public support can be mobilised to link them together.

The briefing, written by Jane Powell and Corinne Castle at Wales Food Manifesto, sets out the steps needed to achieve an integrated food and farming policy for Wales post-Brexit.

They emphasise two key factors that enable Wales to take these steps: vibrant networks of grassroots organisations building innovative local food enterprises and the radical pieces of legislation introduced by the Welsh government that could be used to engineer a new food economy.

“Brexit gives Wales an opportunity to make a step-change into a new approach to food and farming, but it will only happen if there is a wholesale realignment of all those involved with the food system, and a willingness to see ourselves differently,” said Ms Castle.

“Old oppositions, say between food production and wildlife, or between supermarkets and community initiatives, will have to transform. Above all, we will need to bring back more trust and respect to the vital business of feeding a nation.”

The authors recommend that the public funding that replaces the Common Agricultural Policy, must be for farming that integrates food production with care for the environment.

Subsidy should be based on what farmers do, not how much land they manage, with support for new entrants.

“It’s time for a fresh approach to food and farming in Wales,” said Ms Powell.

“Grassroots initiatives in both rural areas and cities are pioneering new ways of producing and distributing food, government is changing the way it works, and global challenges are more acute than ever.

“We need to seize the moment and set a new course for food, one that works for everyone. A new national civil society network would be a vital first step to draw people together.”