As the UK negotiates its future relationship with the European Union and the rest of the world, we face serious questions about the future of our food, farming and countryside. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we eat and farm, and to regenerate our environment and countryside communities.
We urgently need to ask ourselves: what kind of country do we want to be and what do we want from our food and farming systems? Less than a fifth of us live in the countryside. Yet it is central to our lives. We depend on it for our food, and for much we take for granted, such as clean air and water, beautiful historic landscapes, diverse wildlife, and opportunities for leisure and wellbeing.
With the changes to international relationships, what direction should domestic policy take us? How can we assure public health and protect natural assets through the disruption? How can government, business and society collaborate to support our diverse farming sector while revitalising rural communities?
Food poverty and diet-related illness are on the rise; and while farm incomes rely on public subsidies, the countryside’s finite natural resources face pressure to provide economic, social and environmental value far beyond farming. In this prospectus, we outline the landscape in which the Commission aims to have influence, sketching some of the shared challenges that span food, farming and the countryside.