National Food Strategy report summary
Following the release of the much-anticipated National Food Strategy Plan, our Policy Adviser (Agriculture and Climate Change) Paul Richardson shares the highlights.
Led by businessman Henry Dimbleby, The National Food Strategy is an independent two-part report commissioned by the UK Government in 2019. Today’s release is part two, “The Plan”, with part one published in July 2020. Although the scope of the report was to focus on England, they were asked to consider the “relationship with the devolved administrations, the European Union and our other trading partners”.
Chapter 16 of the report sets out 14 recommendations centred around four themes:
Escape the junk food cycle and protect the NHS:
1. Introduce a Sugar and Salt Reformulation Tax. Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income families.
2. Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies.
3. Launch a new “Eat and Learn” initiative for schools.
Reduce diet-related inequality:
4. Extend eligibility for free school meals.
5. Fund the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years.
6. Expand the Healthy Start scheme.
7. Trial a “Community Eatwell” Programme, supporting those on low incomes to improve diets.
Make the best use of our land:
8. Guarantee the budget for agricultural payments until at least 2029 to help farmers transition to more sustainable land use.
9. Create a Rural Land Use Framework based on the three-compartment model.
10. Define minimum standards for trade, and a mechanism for protecting them.
Create a long-term shift in our food culture:
11. Invest £1 billion in innovation to create a better food system.
12. Create a National Food System Data programme.
13. Strengthen Government procurement rules to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable food.
14. Set clear targets and bring in legislation for long-term change.
Of most interest are the three recommendations on the theme of “Making the best use of our land”.
The report recommends that DEFRA maintain at least the current level of funding for agricultural payments until at least 2029, with around one-third of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) budget being used to reward farmers for managing the land in ways which “actively sequester carbon and restore nature”. This is backed up by calls for DEFRA to ensure that the schemes are easily accessible for all farmers, with payments for improving environmental conditions and encouraging biodiversity.
Rural Land Use Framework
The report also recommends that the UK Government create a Rural Land Use Framework, setting out which areas of land would be best suited to the proposed “Three Compartmental Model”: semi-natural land, high-yield farmland and low-yield farmland.
The report reinforces the importance of protecting our high standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards when making new deals, and calls for “the Government, as a matter of urgency, to draw up a list of core minimum standards which it will defend in any future trade deals”.
The UK Government has committed to respond to the report in full, in the form of a White Paper in the next six months.