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Agriculture redefinition

30 October 2001


Farmers will need to be rewarded for a much wider range of activities including combating flooding and providing other services not related to food production, says the Sustainable Development Commission.

In its paper A Vision for Sustainable Agriculture, submitted to the new Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, the Commission sets out the public services which farmers should be paid for in a sustainable farming system. Instead of receiving subsidies for food production, farmers would be rewarded for managing floods, growing energy crops, tackling climate change, improving public access to the countryside and developing their businesses - activities which would contribute to the well-being of the UK as a whole.

Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission said:

'There's a lot of talk about sustainable agriculture at the moment, but only a very vague idea of what it really means. The Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will need to be rigorous in its interpretation of sustainable agriculture, and has a crucial role in advancing a radically different vision for the UK's hard-pressed farming community.'

A Vision for Sustainable Agriculture establishes the following seven aims for farming:

�� Produce safe, healthy food and non-food products in response to market demands, now and in the future

�� Enable viable livelihoods to be made from sustainable land management, taking account of payments for public benefits provided.

�� Operate within biophysical constraints and conform to other environmental imperatives

�� Provide environmental improvements and other benefits that the public wants - such as re-creation of habitats and access to land

�� Achieve the highest standards of animal health and welfare compatible with society's right of access to food at a fair price

�� Support the vitality of rural economies and the diversity of rural culture

�� Sustain the resource available for growing food and supplying other public benefits over time, except where alternative land uses are essential in order to meet other needs of society

The paper also discusses mechanisms to achieve these aims - legislation; market measures, such as assurance schemes; taxes and subsidies; and education and training for all land managers and farm workers.

SDC has been invited by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food to analyse a cross section of submissions using its proprietary sustainability appraisal tool. SDC's future work will look at the social and environmental effects of food production and land use.

The full text of A Vision for Sustainable Agriculture can be found on the SDC website - http://www.sd-commission.gov.uk/pubs/food2001/index.htm

Notes to editors:

Reporting to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the devolved administrations, the Sustainable Development Commission is an advisory non-departmental public body sponsored by the Cabinet Office, established in October 2000. The Commission's objectives include advocating a compelling vision of a sustainable economy and society and reviewing how far sustainable development is being achieved in the UK across all sectors. More information is available at http://www.sd-commission.org.uk

The Commission will launch its flagship review of the year at the end of 2001.

For more on the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming And Food, one of three post foot-and-mouth inquiries set up by the government, see the website:


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