I’ve enjoyed welcoming friends and family to stay over the summer, particularly sharing the gorgeous food and drink made in Cornwall. Of course, our local seafood is second to none and it’s great to see Harbour Lights nominated for another prestigious award.
I personally appreciate everything farmers do to feed us, keep our soils rich, our rivers clean, to provide habitats for wildlife and to help in the fight against climate change and broader environmental degradation. And I want to see farmers better rewarded for these vital public services.
I know that farmers would not be in a position to provide these public goods, indeed we would not have the countryside we all cherish, without successful, productive, profitable farm businesses.
More than that, without successful farm businesses and high-quality food production we won’t be able in the future to maintain the balance and health of our whole society and economy.
Our community depends on profitable agricultural businesses to thrive. While our coastline draws tourists from far and wide, so do our landscapes that depend on farmers for their maintenance and upkeep. Our hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and pubs depend on high quality local produce and a healthy local food economy to be at their best.
That’s why I have been spending time listening to our local food producers as the Government consults on the future, outside of the EU, of the Common Agricultural Payments Scheme. I believe that if we get policy right for those who produce our food we can ensure sustainable and balanced growth across the United Kingdom, we can ensure the investment is there in the future, not just to make the countryside and the country as a whole flourish. We can enhance our environment, provide rewarding employment for future generations, improve the physical health and well-being of the population and leave the environment in a better state for our children and grandchildren.
In the past, the concerns of farmers and food producers were given insufficient weight in the design and implementation of UK Government policy.
This was defended by some on the basis that the major policy decisions governing farming and food production were taken at European levels through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Since UK ministers and civil servants had little room to shape, let alone, reform the CAP’s operation there was, it was argued, little justification for expending energy thinking hard about food policy.
This failure was all the more lamentable because the food and drink industry is Britain’s biggest manufacturing sector. It’s also Britain’s fastest-growing, with our export growth over the last few months having been driven by massive increases in food and drink sales.
So we can now have, a strategy that is designed to integrate the concerns of everyone involved in food and drink production – from farm to fork – to develop the right policies for the future. That food strategy is at the heart of the broader Industrial Strategy.
The Food and Drink Sector Council is an industry-led board composed of businesses from every part of the food chain. From primary producers to retailers. Among the Council’s priorities are sustainability, productivity, nutrition, exports, workforce and skills, innovation, logistics and packaging.
Drawing on the real world experience the people on the Council will be working closely with Government in shaping future policy. Along with the Government’s 25-year plan for the environment, I believe that we have a real opportunity to grow more of our own food and leave the environment in better shape for future generations.
First published in the West Briton 30/08/18 and Falmouth Packet 05/09/18