I believe that we need to work together, internationally as part of the EU to address issues that must be addressed unitedly. The climate, our energy use and the free market on food produce all has no borders. We are in it together.
I am concerned that these Euro elections have been high jacked by the debate of in or out of the EU; and obviously this is not the question here. We as candidates stand in front of you, almost as a job interview; to demonstrate to you what we would do if elected that is in your interest and what is not. I must say I am disappointed that some MEPs who suppose to represent their voters, do not deliver in attending important voting sessions in the European Parliament.
Anyway, the membership of the EU costs for us ca 50 pence a day per UK citizen; and I think that farmers gain greater benefits that it costs us. 76% of the UK’s exports are to the EU. Leaving the EU would therefore put us in an uncertain position of renegotiating trade agreements.
Farming is crucially important for the future of our country. And I believe that we need to prioritise your industry on the EU agenda. Farming is, indeed, an issue that I am personally particularly interested. I have been meeting with many different farmers in recent months. I have also learned a lot from my boyfriend, who is a farmer himself.
Whilst meeting farmers, and reading the NFU manifesto, I have increasingly become aware that many of your policies have a lot in common with the Green Party.
We, the Green Party recognize the fundamental importance of those who work on the land and the contribution that farming makes to the rural economy and to wider society.
We are facing climate change, the greatest environmental challenge ever. Climate change will have various devastating effects – an increase of extreme weather conditions, which will and already are having a serious effect on our food security. We have had the floods, only three years ago East Anglia was dryer than the Sahara in the spring of that year. All of which will impact on farming; and I am aware that your community has shared concerns with us the Green party on climate change.
We must address this, and we must do so now. It isn’t a question if we can afford it, we simply cannot afford not to. The IPCC report has clearly stated that we must keep 80% of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground, if we want to stand a chance on keeping the global warming rate below the two degrees necessary to avoid the worst.
Furthermore, the report also clearly warned about the devastating impact of climate change on our food security.
We must change to renewable energy, not only to combat climate change, but also since sooner or later we will run out of fossil fuels. As an example, some decades ago, to extract 100 barrels of oil, one barrel was used, we are now on using 1 to gain 8. This clearly shows that the costs of retrieving fossil fuels soon will be too high to do so.
And I believe that farmers need to be part of this transition. We have seen how in Germany, communities, individuals and farmers own 65% of the renewable sector.
We, the Green oppose corporate control, with big energy giants owing our valuable resources. And thus I would want farmers to be part of our renewable future. They have the land, and the waste. Together we can build an industry with solar, wind and anaerobic digestion. I must point out that I am supportive of AD but only if used locally, and for waste products.
Hence I see that your farming community is a vital part of our future of food security and energy production – both resources that will become increasingly expensive for consumers. So we must work together to plan for a sustainable future that provides the energy and food future generations need.
However, we the Greens recognise the struggles many farmers face today. For example, food production is often more expensive that the price you get paid. That is simply not ok and we, the Greens want to change this.
Supermarkets have become hugely powerful, pushing prices down.
I’ve heard many stories of farmers losing money and wasting food due to restrictive and unfair supermarket practices.
The Green Party is very clear that we need fundamental changes in our food chain.
And Greens in Europe have aimed to introduce measures to combat the distorting effects of market concentration and to launch research examining profit margins along the food supply chain.
Another area where Greens have been active is on is on improved labelling schemes, which identify and promote short food chains and direct producer-consumer relations. People need to want to know truthfully about where their food comes from, what it contains including GM and we need really tough action when the rules are broken.
Sadly these negotiations on labelling did not go our way, so third-country products can bear quality marks in the EU without the products having been made to comply with equivalent legislation.
And another area where we will defend quality farming is on TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). While some in farming are getting excited about more money floating around- and there are some impressive figures bandied about regarding the economic benefit- we have yet to see any evidence backing them up.
And with knowledge of the negotiations Greens believe the NFU is very right to have concerns about how this agreement could mean imports of products produced with lower quality, environmental and animal welfare standards than we demand in the EU. This must not be allowed.
Greens will stand up against imports of cheap food that have been produced in ways that do not meet the standards of food safety, traceability, are environmentally damaging or produced with inferior animal welfare.
And Greens believe the Common Agriculture Policy is an opportunity for us to support the kind of farming we need in the future, unfortunately the reform so far has failed to address various issues efficiently. Greens in Europe will continue to push for a different kind of CAP. What we do know is that withdrawing from Europe would be a disaster for farmers, as their income would be uncertain and they would be left to join a race to the bottom with farmer’s globally.
Greens know we need a functioning and sustainable agriculture in this country to secure livelihoods, create jobs, tackle rural poverty, improve food security, be part of the renewable transition and build in resilience to climate change.
I believe the farming community and us in the Green Party share many core values. There is a lot of common ground and Green Food and Agriculture policy, together with other policy areas, fully addresses these issues. We firmly believe that our policies, based on sound science, need to be implemented if we are to maintain a sustainable food production capacity in Great Britain. Admittedly, the NFU and the Greens have also some differences, which we want to work unitedly to find solutions that are practical and doable for them, that are supported by scientific research, and that are ultimately sustainable.
Most of farmer’s ancestors were farming using a seven year crop rotation, understanding and appreciating the land and its soil. Traditional farming was aiming to protect, maintain and improve the soil, livestock and the productivity for the long term. The volatile free market, with cheap food being transported from one side of the world to another, using harsh chemicals to boost production, and so on – I don’t think is sustainable. We must think about future generations. I am sure, we are all equally concerned about your children and grandchildren, how they will feed themselves and they can farm the land.
I like to quote US president Franklin Roosevelt “The History of every nation is eventually written in the way in which it cares for its soil”.