FDF responds to Defra’s Agriculture Policy consultation

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has responded to Defra’s consultation on the future domestic Agriculture Policy in England: ‘Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit’.

The FDF says that it wants a successful and profitable food and drink industry that contributes effectively to the economy and environment of the UK.

Food and drink should be an important part of the UK government’s approach to industrial strategy and the FDF welcomes the recent creation of the Food and Drink Sector Council as an important step forward. Farming for food production is a critical part of this renewed approach.

The UK’s 6,800 food and drink manufacturers operate in increasingly open and competitive international markets. This enables them to provide UK shoppers with a wide range of products, available at all price points. The FDF states that the sector will only succeed if we continue to have reliable access to adequate supplies of raw materials that are safe, of high quality and competitively priced and it is therefore vital that we do not see any material reduction in the food produced by UK farmers.

According to the FDF, a sustainable food and farming policy must consider the entire supply chain, based on resource efficiency and comparative advantage rather than historical patterns of production. Food security and climate change pose the biggest challenges to the future of the UK supply chain, the organisation says. Managing risk and volatility is an important element of this.

As a result, for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform to be successful any option selected as a result of this consultation needs to meet the needs of farmers and to create viable farm businesses. During the transition period, it will be helpful to reduce the burden on farmers, the FDF says.

There is so much current uncertainty for farming business that the policy must ensure no further disadvantage as we exit the EU. The FDF would also support simplification of the process and the introduction of ‘earned recognition’ to help achieve this.

It is also important that UK reform of CAP understands and takes into account the changing European CAP picture to ensure that that UK farming and food & drink businesses are able to operate competitively on a level playing field with rest of Europe. Any options chosen must have competitiveness as key outcome. An important part of this will be prioritisation of the maintenance and growth of business and trade between the UK and EU post Brexit.

Both the UK government and the EU have expressed a desire to maintain free-trade. To achieve this, the FDF advocates for the maintenance of UK-EU regulatory alignment, to avoid the possibility of trade frictions arising. The UK government will also need to be clear how its policy aims in domestic production standards interacts with its international trade policy.

Any divergence of UK farm support policy relative to current CAP arrangements would run contrary to these aims, and would present serious concerns to many of the FDF’s members.

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