Our future in the land

The Independent Food, Farming & Countryside Commission hosted by the RSA in its report launched on Tuesday 16th July ‘Our Future in the Land’ has added its voice to the calls by the RSN and the House of Lords Select Committee for a comprehensive Rural Strategy

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is an independent inquiry established in November 2017, with support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire, 15 Commissioners were drawn from farming and food businesses, from public health and citizens groups, from thinktanks and universities. 

Last week they launched a report ‘Our Future in the land’.   The actions we take in the next ten years, to stop ecosystems collapse, to recover and regenerate nature and to restore people’s health and wellbeing are now critical. In this report, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission sets out radical and practical ways for policymakers, business and communities to respond to the challenges.

The report makes a number of recommendations in three areas:

Healthy food is every body’s business

  • Levelling the playing field for a fair food system – good food must become good business
  • Committing to grow the UK supply of fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses, and products from UK sustainable agriculture, and to using them more in everyday foods
  • Implementing world-leading public procurement, using this powerful tool to transform the market
  • Establishing collaborative community food plans to help inform and implement national food strategies and meet the different needs of communities around the UK
  • Reconnecting people and nature to boost health and wellbeing

Farming is a force for change, unleashing a fourth agricultural revolution driven by public values

  • Designing a ten-year transition plan for sustainable, agroecological farming by 2030
  • Backing innovation by farmers to unleash a fourth agricultural revolution
  • Making sure every farmer can get trusted, independent advice by training a cadre of peer mentors and farmer support networks
  • Boosting cooperation and collaboration by extending support for Producer Organisations to all sectors
  • Establishing a National Agroecology Development Bank to accelerate a fair and sustainable transition

A countryside that works for all, and rural communities are a powerhouse for a fair and green economy

  • Establishing a national land use framework in England inspires cooperation based on the public value of land, mediating and encouraging multipurpose uses
  • Investing in the skills and rural infrastructure to underpin the rural economy
  • Creating more good work in the regenerative economy
  • Developing sustainable solutions to meet rural housing need
  • Establishing a National Nature Service that employs the energy of young people to kickstart the regenerative economy

In addition the report states:

“The Rural Services Network has called for a comprehensive rural strategy covering housing, digital and material infrastructure, health and social care, SME development and rural crime.   At the time of writing it has been endorsed by nearly 300 organisations, including Action for Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and dozens of parish councils, local Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) groups and small businesses. In May 2019, the House of Lords Rural Economy Select Committee reiterated the need for a rural strategy and fleshed out its details.   We add our voice to these calls.”

At the launch, Graham Biggs, our CX, managed to ask the following question of Michael Gove MP:

“I am a Fellow of the RSA and Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network. In the report the Commission has commended the Rural Services Network’s call for a Rural Strategy or framework and the report of the House of Lords Select Committee but the government’s response - in effect - rejects that. My question is, is the door still open, with government, for further discussions on the principle?"

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, responded:

“We agreed with many of the recommendations in the report by the new House of Lords committee, which is chaired by Don Foster, but one thing that we didn’t say is that we want to have a rural strategy overall. And there are several reasons for that, which I shall not go into in detail now, but what we have done is that we have established a specific rural economy board within DEFRA, chaired by another of the non-executive directors, who works alongside Henry and myself. And it has a particular mission to ensure that other government departments, that have a direct influence through their policy making on what happens in rural Britain, make sure that their policies are aligned on everything from the roll-out of full-fibre broadband to making sure that we make the right decisions when it comes to local transport. But as I say, I’d be more than happy, in due course, to explain why we think that of the many good ideas that particular requirement to have a rural strategy overall maybe a diversion of energy from some of the other  more urgent things that we need to do.”

At the Rural Services Network, we look forward to the actions that the Government will take following the report and response and to hearing why the Government feels an overall comprehensive rural strategy will not be forthcoming!

The full report can be downloaded by clicking on the image below:


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