As we approach June’s General Election, the Soil Association has called for food and farming to be put at the heart of manifesto pledges.
The organic organisation has urged all political parties to pay attention to its manifesto priorities, which includes calls for the next Government to put tackling climate change, improving public health, making sure we have healthy soil for future generations and farm animal welfare at the centre of their food and farming vision.
It has laid out seven key priorities for change, which include investing in healthy soils though soil stewardship payments, mandatory soil testing, incentives for more grass and clover, and agroforestry, zero carbon farming by 2050, stronger support for organic and investing in child health.
Helen Browning, Chief Executive of the Soil Association, explained: “As the UK prepares to leave the EU, the next Government will have an opportunity to produce an agricultural policy for the first time in decades. We’re proposing seven policies that we’d like to see in all manifestos. Climate change, public health, soil protection and farm animal welfare must be top priorities.
“The next Government should also do more to support research and innovation by farmers themselves, which is critical to the success of agriculture post-Brexit. Protect the health of our children for generations to come through investing in child health and commit to all farm animals living a ‘good life’. I urge all parties to step-up to the plate and fully recognise the importance of food and farming to public health, our environment, and the economy.
The Soil Association is also calling for stronger support for organic farming methods, alongside closer working across-departments and with devolved administrations, and better resourcing of DEFRA.
Looking closer at the manifesto pledges, the Soil Association said that the next Government needs to prioritise the expansion of organic farming as a central plank of agricultural policy. This should include maintaining, improving and expanding the organic conversion and maintenance payments, ensuring agricultural colleges offer more courses in organic and agroecological farming practices, alongside new organic apprenticeships, and maintaining the legal basis for organic standards – ensuring ongoing alignment with the EU organic regulation.