The Liberal Democrats would introduce a National Food Strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food, according to its manifesto, reports Alistair Driver.
The manifesto takes a markedly different approach to Brexit adopted by the Conservative Government, promising that Tim Farron’s party would hold hold a further public vote on Brexit, including an option to remain in the EU.
The document stresses the Lib Dems’ desire to maintain membership of the Single Market and the principles, at least, of free movement of labour in any Brexit deal.
It says: “The vote to leave the EU puts farming and agricultural businesses in huge danger, threatening both cuts to the support which underpin farmers’ livelihoods and ability to manage the countryside, and also tariffs on exports. For agricultural products outside the EU, tariffs average 22.3% – putting Britain’s £18 billion of food exports in danger.
“Our system must support farmers, ensure food production, and protect the environment.”
Key food and farming pledges include:
- Introduce a National Food Strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food
- Increase the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and extend its remit to include businesses further up the supply chain, helping to ensure that farmers receive a fair price
- Continue to improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture by updating farm animal welfare codes and promoting the responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs
- Ensure that future trade deals require high safety, environmental and animal welfare standards for food imports, including clear and unambiguous country of origin labelling for meat and dairy products.
- Develop safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB, including by investing to produce workable vaccines.
- Continue our long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies – making sure British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out in the event of Britain leaving the EU, rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public goods that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production, and climate change mitigation
- Encourage new and younger entrants to farming by championing different forms of ownership including longer tenancies, share farming, and community ownership.
The manifesto also includes a number of environmental policies, some of which would directly impact on farming, including:
- Suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators
- Introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences, increasing the maximum sentencing from six months to five years, and bring in a ban on caged hens.
- Establish a £2bn flood prevention fund focused on providing support for small community- and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding and the knock-on effects in downstream and coastal areas; in addition to improving flood defences, and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood risk areasPass a Nature Act to put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing, set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets
- Protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas.