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Agriculture can deliver on sustainability with right support, say East Anglian farmers

PUBLISHED: 15:21 16 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:21 17 July 2019

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is calling for a 10-year sustainable food and farming plan  Picture: IEUAN WILLIAMS

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is calling for a 10-year sustainable food and farming plan Picture: IEUAN WILLIAMS

Ieuan Williams

UK agriculture can deliver on providing sustainable foods with the right investment, East Anglian farmers' leaders believe after a new report called for a radical shift in food and farm practices.

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission - which was launched in 2017 to think about where our food comes from and how we support farming and rural communities - is calling for a 10-year plan for the food and farming industry in response to the climate emergency.

It says there should be a dramatic shift towards 'agro-econological' farming by 2030, such as organic food production, pasture-fed livestock, wildlife protection measures, more use of trees and more government support for healthy produce.

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Farming co-op AF Group boss Jon Duffy said the ever-evolving sector had already contributed "a huge amount" in delivering produce to a growing population, and unlocking efficiency and raising productivity would help lead to the 'fourth agricultural revolution' outlined in the report.

"As an industry, UK agriculture needs to deliver long-term profitability and sustainability in order to meet the challenges we face both today and in the future," he said.

Glenn Buckingham, chair of the Suffolk branch of the National Farmers' Union, said farmers were "always ready for a challenge" as he called for relocalised supply lines and a more diverse farming production system. Farmers' performance needed to be related to carbon emissions, he added, and good data was needed on the environmental cost of our food system which could be translated into a support package to enable the change.

"We realise the past 50 years of industrialisation do have consequences and they need to be remedied without disrupting food supply," he said, suggesting it was perverse that food banks had reach an all-time high in the UK, while obesity and food waste ran so high.

Fram Farmers chief executive Richard Anscombe, said he was convinced millennial and next generation farmers would play a key role in innovating the sector. "They are the best equipped educationally, often with experience in industry before going back to the farm and have strong beliefs with respect to societal good, ethical trading and environmental good, all key factors in government policy as well as making sound business sense," he said.

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