Sir Ian Cheshire, chair of Barclays UK and Debenhams and the former Kingfisher chief executive, will chair a major new Commission into the Future of Food and Farming, organised by the RSA [Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce].
Announced ahead of the formal Commission launch next month [Tuesday 1 November], the two-year long Commission will help make the case for change to build a fairer food and farming system, ensuring a sustainable future for the UK’s countryside.
The news comes as the UK looks to overhaul its food policy as it is set to leave three separate but overlapping European institutions which have underpinned the UK’s policy for the last 40 years:
- The European Union and its Common Agricultural Policy – which sets the framework for farming subsidies and sets standards in food regulation and environmental protections.
- The Single Market, which also enables the free trade and distribution of food produce and free migration of workers. EU-born staff represent 20% of the permanent farming workforce and 90% of the seasonal workforce harvesting fruit and vegetables.
- The Customs Union, which places a shared tariff and quotas on goods like New Zealand lamb or American soy beans to participating countries, from areas outside the bloc.
Sir Ian will lead the Commission’s work on what a new system could look like: protecting standards and securing food supply; reforming public investment and the livelihoods of rural communities, and making the most of any new trading opportunities.
As Chair, Sir Ian will oversee a two-year programme, supported by the RSA in a secretariat capacity, which will:
- Develop a mandate for change for food, farming and the countryside for the UK.
- Shape a food, farming and countryside system that is fairer, and aligns more closely with UK population’s expectations and values.
- Demonstrate how national policy can achieve change at local level.
Sir Ian Cheshire said: “I’m delighted to be chairing this landmark Commission which couldn’t be timelier.
“We will recommend how the UK should shape its food, farming and countryside policy and practice after Brexit, as a country which imports 40% of its food and where, until now, EU policy has defined the farming sector and our natural rural landscapes.
“Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy will mean we need a whole new approach to how government ensures rural land – about 70% of which is farmed – delivers the greatest long-term benefit to UK society. Our food system is at the centre of this debate, and there are significant implications for the UK’s nations, regions and communities.
“All this is against a backdrop of climate change, emerging aspirations on future trade policy, and our ever-evolving relationship to what we eat.
“I’m looking forward to engaging with citizens, producers, consumers and businesses, and those representing the immense diversity of groups with a particular interest. Every one of us has a stake in navigating this vital aspect of Brexit, and to start to better understand how our choices shape the food, on our plates. A sustainable future for our countryside and our farming sector is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”