Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:12 pm on 25th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Helen Browning:

There is lots of talk about food security, and it is used in a number of ways by a number of people. I do not think food security is the same as saying that we need to produce it all here; sometimes food security might be sourcing from a number of different places, because they might not have the same climatic disaster at the same time. It might be about storage. I think that we need to use that phrase with some caution.

At the same time, the Bill de-links the production of food from the funding that will come to farmers—that is a very important dislocation that is being made. Currently, if you are in receipt of public money, you are required to produce food, effectively. You will no longer be required to do that, as I understand it from the Bill. The import of that needs to be thought through clearly. I think it is the right approach, because I do not think you should force farmers to produce food that people are not paying an adequate amount for—they would be running loss-making businesses. Over time, we need to take a view as to what sort of food system we want, how much food we should produce here, and how much we are prepared to offshore our environmental or social responsibilities to other countries in order that they feed us. These are big societal debates that we need to have, but we need to be very clear that what the Bill does is saying, “We pay you for environmental goods; you don’t any longer have to produce food to claim those payments.”