UK Farm to Fork Summit might secure brighter future for British farming, says Soil Association

British organic food and farming body, the Soil Association, has urged participants in today’s (16 May) ‘food summit’ to be “bold in their thinking” and called on Defra to reinstate its commitment to a horticulture strategy in order to save the sector and bolster national food security.

Speaking ahead of the UK Farm to Fork Summit, convened by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street to address current challenges within the agriculture sector, Soil Association head of farming policy Gareth Morgan said a cohesive, joined-up government approach to food and farming policy is vital.

He added that, although Sunak is today joined by voices from across the UK food and farming industries, a wider range of stakeholders should have been involved in discussions to best represent the complex interconnections between the climate, nature and public health crises, and how these affect food systems.

Nevertheless, he said that this summit “might just provide an opportunity to secure a brighter future for farming in the UK”, and recommended that such government-food industry discussions should become a regular occurrence.

“The clock is ticking on the climate and nature crises, and many farmers and households are struggling in the face of rising costs,” Morgan said. “Urgent action is needed to join the dots between these challenges. We urge participants of the Food Summit to be bold in their thinking – reinstating the commitment to a horticulture strategy would be a good place to start.

“The empty shelves of the last few months could have been avoided if we had a more robust food and farming system, greater equity in supply chains, and a cohesive vision and strategy from government. The decision to abandon development of a strategic approach to increasing UK fruit and vegetable production shows worrying signs of complacency about our food security.

“There is a great deal at stake. We need to simultaneously accelerate progress towards Net Zero farming while acting to protect nature, and ensure producers receive a fair income. This will require government investment in more sustainable farming, and a commitment to scaling up organic and agroecology across most of the UK.

Morgan also highlighted the necessity of cross-party acceptance of government’s role in shifting diets onto a more sustainable footing, as highlighted in the government’s National Food Strategy.

“Importantly, this summit should become a regular event open to a broad range of interests and experts and the government must recognise that now, more than ever, food security and resilience must start with genuine support for UK farmers and growers,” he said.