NFU insight: Expanding the conversation around a National Food Strategy

The NFU's chief food chain adviser Ruth Edge outlines what we know so far about the government's plans for a new National Food Strategy and the work the NFU is doing to develop a national conversation about the future of food in the UK.

She writes:

In summer 2018, in his role as Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove announced that he would be putting the wheels in motion to develop a national food strategy and that this project would be headed up by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain and a Defra non-executive director.

The NFU immediately identified this as a key priority. It was vital that farmers and growers should be involved in the development of any national food strategy and aid the thinking of Defra.

NFU President Minette Batters said that ‘the review is long overdue, and government must take domestic farming and food production seriously as it puts plans in place for a national strategy. British farmers are critical to our food system and deliver safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation'. You can read more about this on NFUonline.

The NFU published its UK: A Nation United By Food report in September 2018. Sent to hundreds of MPs across the country, it was designed to open up the discussion and highlight the need for a comprehensive strategy setting out a collaborative vision of the future of food in Britain.

The report identifies four key areas that should underpin these conversations:

  • Moral imperative: To look at the challenge of feeding a growing global population, the development of new technologies and making the most of productive land.
  • Health and nutrition: Consider the UK’s diet, the rise of obesity and the pressures on the NHS.
  • Integrity and standards: To look at the UK’s current food policy system, global food standards and imports and exports.
  • Working with nature: Provide discussion on reliance on healthy natural systems for food production and diversity in the global food supply base to manage risks due to natural environmental extremes.

In order to get the ball rolling on this collaborative approach, the NFU hosted four roundtable meetings to discuss these four key areas. These events were attended by Mr Dimbleby as well as retailers, food processors, NGOs, and environmental representatives.

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To build on these conversations, Mrs Batters met with government to highlight the need for a proactive plan which joins the dots between farmers and the wider food manufacturing industry, and builds a brand based on the integrity and standards of British food.

Following on from this work, the NFU gathered views from members across the country in order to respond to Defra’s call for evidence on the National Food Strategy, ensuring that the views of individual farmers and growers reached those tasked with developing the policy.

Looking ahead, the NFU continues to actively engage with the National Food Strategy. Mrs Batters has been appointed to the advisory panel to oversee its development.

:: Read about what the NFU is asking for from the National Food Strategy in its 2019 General Election manifesto - Back British Farming: Brexit and Beyond.

Hear more from our members' on the National Food Strategy: