'More clarity for the growing industry'

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21 June 2022
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Government response to the National Food Strategy highlights importance of TIAH

THE Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH) has been referenced as necessary to help growers access the right skills to run professional, sustainable, and profitable businesses in the UK government’s response to the National Food Strategy.

Chief Executive at TIAH, Janet Swadling (pictured), said the strategy provides some clarity as to how the Government wants the industry to work towards more sustainable food production.  

“We welcome the support of TIAH within the strategy. It will allow us to provide more beneficial support for professional farmers and growers to succeed in their careers and produce healthy food in a sustainable way,” she said.
 
“Currently, our main area of focus to help the industry access better professional support is the development of online services, which will bring together skills and training from across the industry onto one accessible platform.

“The platform is due to launch in 2023. But, in preparation, we are running a pilot scheme with British farmers and growers who will ensure that the services being developed are fit for purpose, prior to roll-out. Farmers and growers are able to get in touch and apply to be a ‘TIAH Cultivator’ if they are passionate about being involved at this stage. 

“Through the pilot scheme, the group of ‘TIAH cultivators’ will have an opportunity to test TIAH’s services and will help to shape skills and professional development within the industry,” she added. 

To find out more about TIAH and its pilot scheme, visit the TIAH website

Cautious welcome

Philip Wynn, LEAF Chairman (Linking Environment And Farming) has cautiously welcomed the National Food Strategy white paper, saying its high-level objectives are laudable, including the ambition to strengthen national resilience to address food security, placing nature at the heart of more productive farming and reconnecting consumers with their food. 

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"However, what is lacking is a clear plan of action and a sense of urgency in moving this vital work forwards now," he said.  

"We are encouraged with the government’s aspirations to see more sourcing of food produced to higher environmental standards within the public and catering food sector and the recognition given to the LEAF Marque environmental assurance system. Already, nearly half of the UK’s fresh fruit and vegetables are produced to LEAF Marque standards, and we have set a clear target of 85% of all home-grown fresh produce to be grown more sustainably in the next five years.     

"We are also pleased to see that UK food producers are placed centre stage in terms of their critical role in building national resilience – be that climate change, food security, supporting healthier and more sustainable food systems and in delivering the government’s levelling up agenda.  However, the white paper lacks specific detail and longer-term planning on how domestic food production will be increased." 

LEAF’s 10-year strategy aligns with the broad objectives of the white paper – aiming to achieve a prosperous agri-food sector underpinned by more nature-based and climate-positive farming principles. 

"The proposed Land Use Strategy expected next year has the potential to deliver a coherent vision for land use that brings together the government’s targets on net zero, biodiversity and those within the 25-year environment plan. It is critical that it works for UK farming and the environment and delivers on the ambitions of ELMs to support farmers in their transition to more regenerative approaches. We look forward to supporting government as they develop the detail that will be required to deliver their recommendations and ultimate vision," Philip said. 

'Unfair criticism'

Following the publication of the government’s Food Strategy for England on Monday (13 June) Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, partner at MHA, who specialises in rural business, agriculture and food manufacture, says criticism of the government’s strategy has been unfair and the government has correctly prioritised domestic food production. 

“Most criticism focused on the watering down, or rejection, of proposals from the Dimbleby report that aimed to promote healthier eating and environmental work in rural England. Although this is to be regretted, critics miss that the government had to take account of recent events," he said, citing the effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the supply chain.
 
“As the strategy states, successful domestic production is what gives us national resilience in an uncertain world, and while this meant environmental priorities may have taken more of a back seat than expected, Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine and blockade of the Black Sea have forced the government’s hand.
 
“However, the strategy still sets out a vision to maintain the current level of domestic food production while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the environmental impacts of the food system, in line with net zero commitments and biodiversity targets. This ambition shows the government is still trying to bring together the twin goals of food-security and environmental sustainability. It has become a more difficult balance to achieve recently but not an impossible one.
 
“Another hugely positive aim of the strategy is to place sustainable food production at the heart of education and learning. This has been far too long in coming. We pay less for our food than previous generations but we appreciate it less: this needs to change.” 

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