Local policy and sustainable farming: Sticking points or a genuine impasse?
Clearly, efforts to generalise sustainable farming practices face some pretty considerable barriers: unforgiving market conditions, unhelpful subsidies, uncooperative banks, unrelentingly inflated land values, and so on. What role can local authorities play in addressing these issues and supporting a transition to a more regenerative farming landscape? From county farms to public procurement, development banks to planning reform, over the years various measures have been proposed to support sustainable farming, and in many areas local councils are currently experimenting with their implementation.
This session will draw on case studies from across the North (and beyond) to assess their performance, and reflect on the opportunities and challenges for local policy approaches. The panelists will outline how local agricultural policies have been put into practice, what impact they’ve had on the sector, and what lessons have been learned for our big-picture strategies for food systems transitions. Through discussion we’ll attempt to confront some of the most challenging questions: where do these policies hit limits, and to what extent can they be overcome? If policy has its limits, what other options do we have?
Callum Sunderland – Callum is a graduate student at the Centre for Alternative Technology. He recently completed dissertation research on the impact of Preston City Council’s local economic strategy on Lancashire’s agricultural sector. He grew up in Hull and currently lives in London.
Rebecca Laughton – Rebecca has many years of experience in organic market gardening, farming and research relating to small scale agriculture and low impact planning, and is author of “Surviving and Thriving on the Land” (Green Books 2008) . She currently works part time at a glasshouse in Somerset, growing salad crops, while focussing on advocacy and research in the Landworkers’ Alliance Horticulture Campaign.
Ruth Westcott – Ruth co-ordinates Sustain’s work on the Climate and Nature Emergency and on Sustainable Fishing, working to make food a central part of policies to tackle the climate and nature emergency at a local and national level; also to encourage businesses to adopt a fully sustainable fish policy, and thereby help transform the way the world’s oceans are fished.
James Woodward – James joined Sustain in September 2020 and works on farming policy and campaigns. Previously, he has worked in farm advice for Natural England, supporting farmers into sustainable whole farm systems. He has also worked in farming policy for Defra and the National Farmers’ Union. Alongside this, he also likes to spend time on his step-family’s Cumbrian farm.