Soil Association launches “Grow Back Better” manifesto outlining 10 point plan for Covid-19 recovery

The soil association has launched a new “Grow Back Better” manfiesto for the UK food, farming and land-use post-Covid-19, advocating for a better industry response towards climate change, nature and health crises.

The Grow Back Better manifesto looks a decade into the future, drawing on the Soil Association’s experience in devising and delivering practical solutions with people from all walks of life, outlining how to accelerate the transition to net-zero and regenerate wildlife and soils, and identifying both the investment priorities and policy levers that will deliver change, and the pitfalls that must be avoided.

It feels to me as if the coronavirus pandemic is nature giving humanity one last chance to stop, take stock and to set a new course,” said Helen Browning, Chief Executive of the Soil Association. 

“Our Grow Back Better road map sets out the urgent tasks ahead of us all to ensure food, farming and land use becomes a major part of the solution, rather than the huge problem it is often perceived as. We know there is an appetite for change amongst citizens, farmers and many businesses, but the wrong choices by policy makers at this moment could lock us into damaging directions of travel. It’s a make or break moment. We are clear where we need to get to; we just need the right government support to get us there.”

The report details ten priorities for a ‘resilience route-map’ that, when enacted together, the Soil Association believes can deliver an “agroecological future”; farming in step with nature, providing good livelihoods and great food. The ten priorities are:

  1. Transform livestock farming to dramatically reduce the risks of pandemics and antimicrobial resistance, resulting in a ‘good life’ for all farmed animals, cutting antibiotic use by 90%
  2. Exceed Europe’s ambition to halve pesticide use and grow organic farming to 25% farmed land by 2030
  3. Instigate a farmer-led tree planting revolution with over 5% of farmed land under agroforestry systems by 2030
  4. Increase farmer-led innovation and professional development – shift from agrichemical to agroecological R&D and knowledge sharing
  5. Turn soil from carbon sources into carbon sinks for climate resilience, and increase soil organic matter across all UK farms year-on-year
  6. Scale up fruit, veg, pulses and nut production by investing in UK horticulture
  7. Set ambition to cut ultra-processed food in the UK diet as France has done, so that ultra-processed foods form no more than 15% of the national UK diet
  8. Set bold public procurement targets, improving food quality and increasing organic procurement
  9. Ensure every child eats a healthy diet and gets a world class food education – for health, climate and nature
  10. Rebuild resilient, regional food supply chains and stop the deforestation often associated with UK animal feed

The manifesto also warns against policy ‘lock-ins’, pointing out that during Covid-19 recovery, the wrong choices from policy makers has the potential to lock the UK into damaging directions of travel in food, farming and land-use, such as implementing climate initiatives that do not work for nature, or trade agreements that lead the country into a ‘race to the bottom’ in food and farming standards.

“It is widely acknowledged that this decade is crucial for humanity, and that farmers and land managers have a pivotal role to play,” Ms Browning added. “It’s no longer enough to have islands of good practice; all of food and farming, in its many forms, shapes and sizes, must work together to meet the challenges ahead, and be supported to do so.”

The report can be found in full here: https://www.soilassociation.org/media/21213/grow-back-better-soil-association-report.pdf

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