Emergency “Land Army” package to protect our Local Food Supply

Emergency “Land Army” package to protect our Local Food Supply

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The Landworkers' Alliance have sent a letter to Rt Hon Rishi Sunak and Rt Hon Victoria Prentis calling for an emergency package of support to protect our local food supply, and we need your support in signing this petition to put pressure on them to deliver at this key moment. You can see the full content of the letter here

The current public health emergency has enormous implications for small farms and market gardeners across the countryside. These producers are providing an essential part of our national food infrastructure, but many are facing urgent challenges due to loss of sales to restaurants and catering businesses, having to rapidly and radically reshape their operations to focus on direct sales and deliveries at a time of year when usually the soil is being prepared and crops are going into the ground.

In the coming months there is no doubt that the UK will experience an interruption in the supply of imported fresh fruit and veg as much of our fresh produce comes from Southern Europe, where producers are already delaying and reducing spring plantings due to restrictions on movement of seasonal workers from Eastern Europe, illness, transport restrictions and cash flow. In the UK, many larger farms in the horticultural sector are also facing acute labour shortages since pickers (prevented by both coronavirus and home office) will not be able to travel from Europe to the UK. Many farmers are also over 70 and may need to self-isolate and will be unfit to work if they fall ill, so may not be able to start production this year.

We need to act now to make sure farmers, fruit growers and market gardeners can get their crops in the ground and feel confident that they will be able to distribute them effectively. We cannot lose our food producers when we need them most!

We are calling for an emergency “Land Army” package with 4 strands:

1. EMERGENCY BUSINESS SUPPORT FOR SMALL FARMS AND MARKET GARDENERS

We want to ensure that the recently announced measures to support businesses are also applicable to small farmers and growers who are farming on less than 5 hectares. Farms larger than 5 hectares will have access to the Common Agricultural Policy basic payments to rely on as a financial buffer, but the farms that are below 5 ha in size – largely producing fruit and veg - are not eligible for these payments as they do not pay rates on agricultural land and are often self-employed. 

We are asking for a £10,000 grant to be made available to active small farms businesses who are facing hardship and do not need to pay rates.

2. SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSITION FUND

Urgent supply chain support is needed to develop new routes to market for all scales of farm and market gardeners. They need quick support in facilitating doorstep deliveries and maintaining safe access to farm shops and open-air market spaces, and many businesses will need to make some investments in IT and delivery vehicles to transition. They also need support to set up distribution co-operatives so that smaller producers can centralise their distribution and feed into existing delivery routes, like those maintained by larger Box Schemes or localised Food Hubs. 

We estimate this fund would need £1 million to create sustainable local and co-operative supply chains.

3. COMMUNITY RESILIENCE PROGRAMME

This programme would specifically focus on ensuring supply chains of healthy fresh food are available to those most in need. The fund would be targeted at distributing to those who are isolated, in disadvantaged communities and those in urban areas. This fund would enable community focused routes to market such as Community Supported Agriculture to grow, and strengthen the capacity of existing organisations like the Independent Food Aid Network. It is possible disease outbreaks may become recurrent. Other supply chains shocks will inevitably occur. This intervention now will ensure we have a fair, resilient and equitable food distribution system in the future.

We estimate that £2 million would substantially support alternative food distribution networks to support those most in need.

4. NEW ENTRANTS START UP

To create a resilient, domestic, localised fruit and vegetable supply, we need new entrants to rapidly get onto the land. This is the best time to invest in our next generation of farmers, especially as many existing farmers are vulnerable and will be retiring within the next few years. The Landworkers’ Alliance has presented a scheme to promote New Entrant Start Up Grants of £70,000 to enable New Entrants to access land and invest in the tools and infrastructure they need to get started. 

At a time when the average age of farmers is 59 in the middle of a food system emergency, we request that you open a £5 million fund so we can grow the land army we need to feed the nation.

If we act quickly and decisively, we can make the rapid transition to a shock resistant localised food system fit for the future. Thank you for your support during this stressful time.

Sincerely,

The Landworkers' Alliance