NSA calls for balance and stability in policy direction
7th June 2022
News from the past weekend, from further destruction in Ukraine to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, has once again drawn attention to the climate and environmental challenges facing the planet. Highlighting the threat to global food production the National Sheep Association (NSA) is calling for more balance, long term thinking, and connectivity in Government policy direction.
NSA has long criticised the absence of an overarching future vision for farming, food, and land management in Britain, one that the majority of industry and the public could sign up to and one that recognises the need for holistic and multi functional results. For decades food policies ignored the environment, then, in contrast, followed environmental policies that ignored the importance of food production. Arguably we are still in that era now and are just waking up once again to the importance of food. An impending global disaster is what it has taken to get people to value and get access to the essentials of life once again.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker explains: “It should surprise no one that the farming world has jumped on the opportunity to criticise current policy direction and talk about the importance of food security at a time of severe food inflation, major supply chain disruption, and even depleted shelves in some cases. After decades where food production has been largely ignored and not accepted as a public good it is almost inevitable that this opportunity is sought to be exploited.
“The war in Ukraine continues to be a major factor, but the lack of readiness for our departure from the EU, and many years of policies that did little to really provide national healthy food security or resilience have contributed to the situation we now find ourselves in.”
NSA does not however believe that solely focussing future policies on limited goals such as increased production is the answer to the current food emergency.
Mr Stocker continues: “Now is not the time to push for another short-sighted pendulum swing, from environmental and animal welfare policies to food production policies. Now is exactly the time when we should be aiming for the pendulum to settle somewhere in the middle where food production (and availability), natural resources, climate security, and nature all get equal consideration. Without this, we will lurch from crisis to crisis and will all waste our time and energy fighting for something that doesn’t address society’s needs.
“It seems to me to be defeatist if we now suggest we should ignore our environmental issues and just get on and produce food. People may have full bellies for a while but not addressing climate change will reduce our ability to grow food in the long term, and once all the pollinators have gone our diets will be seriously compromised. Now is exactly the time for our farming, food, environmental, and trade policies to come together into some form of master vision.
“Farmers are the most significant land managers in the UK, and it is farmers who hold the key to feeding us and protecting and rebuilding our environment. They will respond if they understand and buy into the challenges, and if policy supports them in a positive direction – but we do need a clearer vision and plan for where we are heading and right now food security needs to be in there alongside other priorities.”