The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has submitted its response to the DEFRA Health and Harmony consultation, and challenged the Government to understand its responsibility to deliver a new deal for farmers within the supply chain.
TFA chief executive George Dunn said “There is no doubt that we have a great opportunity to build our own, domestic agricultural policy. All of the elements required to do that sit within the Government Command Paper. However the worry is we will end up with a policy that lacks the ambition required to create the outcomes we all desire. Simply removing the Basic Payment Scheme, reconfiguring Countryside Stewardship and providing a fistful of grants will not cut it”.
A key area which the TFA is pressing the Government to address, is the dysfunctional food supply chain within the UK.
“Much is said about the extent to which some within the farming industry have to up their business skills and become more market focused. Yet, British farmers face a massive imbalance in supply chains often leaving them vulnerable to unreasonable behaviour and poor returns. The ever increasing production standards being demanded of farmers is not matched by an ability to recover the higher costs that producing to those higher standards bring. This is a legitimate area for Government to be concerned about,“ said Mr Dunn.
“If we are to achieve a truly sustainable food system working at the best environmental and animal welfare standards and providing high quality products to consumers at reasonable prices, things need to change. We cannot allow the continuation of poor returns to farmers through the supply chain. Farmers must be properly rewarded for the great job that they do” said Mr Dunn.
“If we don’t deal with these market failures, consumers will lose out and cannot be protected from imported products produced to inappropriate standards in new trade deals. Instead we risk exporting our source of primary production and losing the wider public benefits that farming provides for our nation,” said Mr Dunn.
“There are a range of tools available to the Government and it must be prepared to use all of them. These include an expanded role for the Groceries Code Adjudicator, spot checks on retailer and food service compliance, mandatory price reporting throughout the supply chain, taking action against unfair contracts, protection against sub standard imports and facilitation of farmer collaboration and supply chain integration. Sadly, there is no quick fix, but if the Government is serious about achieving the goals laid out in its Command Paper, we need better regulation of our food supply chain,” said Mr Dunn.