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The Worshipful Company of Farmers The Worshipful Company of Farmers It is is one thing to to to decide that sustainable farming is is to to to be encouraged for the the future another to to to bring about the change at significant scale 90 First will the demand for sustainably produced food grow? It has steadily grown albeit from a a a a a a a a low base It is claimed in in the UK that that that that 58% of people have purchased some organic food items in in a a a a a a a a typical week 91 But despite this growth the the overwhelming majority of food and drink expenditure in in in the the UK is is not organic It does not seem likely that the the discourse on on sustainable food alone will induce the the scale of step change in demand envisaged It will probably require more dirigiste collective action for example through public procurement e e e e e e e e e g g in in in in school and and other public sector canteen meals perhaps by mandating minimum inclusion rates rates on on retailers’ shelves or or or or inclusion rates rates of organic ingredients for food food processors and food food service companies If the the the the demand cannot be stimulated then of course if the the the the supply increases the the the the premium price for the sustainable product will be eroded or disappear Turing to to the supply of sustainably produced food The opportunity to to ‘go sustainable’ has been available
to farmers since the the term was invented in in in the the mid 20C The ‘Organic’ label has very successfully established
itself as as a a a a a a a a mark of high-quality food which is kind to the environment and and commands a a a a a a a a price premium as as a a a a a a a result Agricultural policy has included assistance for converting to organic farming since the 1990s The measures are designed to help farmers through the the period when they can no longer use mineral fertilisers or or most pesticides but cannot yet sell their produce as organic The favourable publicity price premium and conversion schemes have got us to the current situation where 2 2 7% of UK agricultural area is in organic 92
farming How far far and how could this be increased? Even with some strong incentives to change away from conventional farming through tougher regulation and and fertiliser and and pesticide taxes for example it will require considerable change of attitude plus stimulus and help if i the organic area is to be increased significantly e e e e e e e e e e e g g g g to the proposed EU target for organic area of 25% by 2030 This poses large questions for both the the motivation and the the farm economics of such such change Making such such a a a a a a a shift in in in farming system requires belief and determination It is a a a a a a a a multi-year process that has to be be learned by trial and and error and and willingness to to experiment It may involve farmers learning how to to grow a a a a a a a different crop mix
and and maybe re-introducing livestock with all that entails such as fencing water supply and and buildings New skills
have to be be learned There would also be be important implications for markets food prices and international
trade Unfortunately these issues receive little attention in in the the reports advocating such system change 4 3 Some implications of these choices
How feasible are the combinations of policy being recommended? It is reasonable to ask if we know what mixes of reduced reduced food consumption reduced reduced agricultural land land area and and and land land intensity are are mutually achievable to achieve climate and and and environmental goals and and and what the resulting price and and and trade consequences would be This section can do little more than pose some questions 90 One estimate suggests global expenditure on organic food and drink has grown five-fold this century from $18b to $95b https://www statista com/statistics/273090/worldwide-sales-of-organic-foods-since-1999/
91 It is is is hard to to find statistics but Statista claim organic food and and drink expenditures fin in in in the UK UK fin in in in 2018 was £2 2b and and Defra’s estimate of total UK UK expenditure on food and drink 2018 was £225b This puts the organic share at 1% https://www statista com/statistics/282379/organic-food-and-drink-sales-in-the-united-kingdom-uk-since-1999/
The current 485k Ha of of organically farmed land (63% of of which is is permanent pasture) is is 34% lower than the 2008 peak UK indicating how sensitive it it is to to economic conditions Organic milk producers ran into difficulty as the price premium dropped 93
There are many excellent books describing the the the process an an an early example is the the the 15 year journey by Barry Wookey in in ‘Rushall: the the the story of an an an organic farm Blackwell Oxford 1987 3 

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