The future of UK food security is at risk unless the Government changes its approach to food and farming policies post-Brexit, according to a group of leading animal scientists and farmers.
The British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) says policy makers need to engage in a different kind of conversation about what will happen to UK farming and food production once the country leaves the European Union.
Without embracing a fresh approach to food and farm policies, not only will food security be challenged, but the country’s rural landscapes and communities could be forced to change beyond recognition.
Speaking at the society’s annual conference in Chester on Wednesday (26 April), BSAS President Professor Liam Sinclair will say that government needs to engage with all sectors of the industry to develop policies which are firmly focused on science, innovation and adding value to UK food production.
This includes clear and guaranteed support that the sector will be properly supported once the existing Common Agricultural Policy came to an end.
“We need to have a very different conversation about how UK agriculture will work outside the EU,” he will tell delegates.
“If there isn’t a substantial amount of applied research and knowledge transfer to allow the livestock industry to improve its efficiency and profitability then food security will be seriously challenged.
“What’s more, without giving producers the support they need to survive and successfully develop their businesses outside the EU we risk being left with fewer animals, an altered landscape, and shattered rural economies.
“Coming out of the EU means the end of the CAP and single farm payments, and if we want to extend our global competitiveness and maintain our current standards of production, food quality and animal welfare, it is essential that Government develops well thought out, focused policies that are based on sound evidence and supported by targeted incentives.
“This is a chance to join up thinking across government and the industry as a whole. It will be difficult to do, but it’s vital that it happens.”
To assist policy makers as they discuss the future of UK food and farming outside the EU, BSAS has produced a policy white paper which sets out five key areas on which Government must focus to ensure the long-term sustainability of UK livestock production and research.
Created together with a team of leading farmers, advisors and animal scientists, the paper says:
1. Additional government support must target applied research which drives innovation, has rapid impact and adds value
2. Policies must improve competitiveness and be evidence based
3. UK Scientists must have access to European Research Funding
4. The UK livestock workforce must have appropriate skills and training
5. Support for livestock production and research underpin UK
food security, biodiversity, tourism and the rural economy
Addressing the conference during a special session on the impacts of Brexit on UK animal science, Professor Sinclair will say:
“The food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, and the role that the livestock sector plays within that in supporting the country’s economy and food security cannot be overlooked.
“For that reason, it is essential that the challenges and opportunities posed by Brexit are properly addressed, and that everyone in the food and farming sectors – whether they are scientists, farmers, processors or anyone else in the economic cycle – are given the support they need.”
To help engage with government and policy makers, BSAS will be holding events through the remainder of 2017 and beyond to talk about the future of the sector post-Brexit and the issues which need addressing.
The society is also urging its members to contribute actively to the debate to ensure their concerns are heard.
“We need to make sure that government is fully aware of the importance of the livestock industry to the UK economy when negotiating with the EU, setting up new trade deals or preparing domestic policy,” adds BSAS chief executive Bruce Beveridge.
“If they don’t then there is a major risk to the UK’s balance of trade, and potentially food security, tourism and employment.
“We want a world leading, competitive and profitable food and farming sector that is supported and led by the latest research and development. We believe we can achieve that outside the EU, but we must make sure we have all the tools we need to do it.”