Setting Food Policy to 2030

The Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn MP, and Shadow Environment Secretary, Nick Herbert MP, will both address the Oxford Farming Conference today, setting out their respective parties’ policies with regard to food and farming.

Nick Herbert is due to announce that a Conservative government would establish a supermarket ombudsman to protect the interests of farmers against any abuse of power by large food retailers. The ombudsman would be created as a unit inside the Office of Fair traiding and would be funded by a levy on big supermarkets. Nick Herbert will say that the ombudsman will “curb abuses of power which undermine our farmers and act against the long-term interests of consumers… failure to do so could result in reduced investment by suppliers, lower product quality and less product choice, with potentially higher prices in the long run.”

Hilary Benn will launch the government’s ‘Food 2030’ report, setting out the government’s food strategy for the next 20 years. Mr Benn will use his speech to the conference to call for Britain to grown more food in different ways, to reduce the environmental impact of food production and farming and to provide food for the world’s growing population. Mr Benn will say that society “know(s) that the consequences of the way we produce and consume food are unsustainable to our planet and to ourselves” and that a consumer revolution can bring about change. “People power can bring about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold…(farming will) follow consumer demand for food that is local, healthy and has been produced with a smaller environmental footprint.”

In his foreword to the report, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says that Britain “need(s) to produce more food without damaging the natural resources – air, soil, water and marine resources, biodiversity and climate – that we all depend on.” Plans within the report include making it easier for people to lease land to grow their own fruit and vegetables, reducing long waiting lists for city allotments, and a ‘land bank’ to ensure that plots of land do not go empty.

Original sources: BBC News: Parties to unveil plans for supermarkets and food, Guardian: Britain must grow more sustainable food, says Benn and Guardian: Conservatives to create supermarket ombudsman to protect farmers