Commission seeks to improve rural life

AN independent high-profile commission aims to improve life for rural communities after the UK leaves the European Union.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce launched the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission on Wednesday (1 November).

A major, two-year independent inquiry, it is being funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and chaired by businessman and Barclays UK chairman Sir Ian Cheshire.

Commissioners are rural stakeholders from across the rural spectrum – including the environmental, health and farming sectors. 

It will consider how post-Brexit Britain can achieve a safe, secure, inclusive food and farming system, a flourishing rural economy and a sustainable and accessible countryside.

The commission will listen to countryside groups and devise solutions to improve public health, sustainability and rural communities outside of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

The Royal Society said it was essential to think afresh about food, farming and rural communities – and how we invest in the many benefits the countryside provides.

The commission will consider how government, business and society can best cooperate to support the UK's diverse farming sector, while revitalising rural communities?

This commission will convene different kinds of conversations – with the power to create new possibilities for action, and mindful of the significance of the challenges ahead.

Commission director Sue Pritchard said: “Our first question must be to ask ourselves what can we add to these critically important debates.

“What is our particular contribution? And will the way it’s funded and established shape how we go about our mission? How will it make an impact?”

The UK was the fifth biggest economy in the world – and yet food poverty and food bank use was on the increase, said Ms Pritchard.

“Food is getting cheaper on the shop shelf, but this doesn’t reflect the true cost of producing it, which has to be picked up elsewhere, in environmental or health impacts.

“As a nation, we say we love our countryside, but competing pressures on the landscape are having a significant impact on biodiversity loss.”

The commission would bring together experts and stakeholders with rural residents – including those whose voices were not typically heard, said Ms Pritchard.

It would travel the UK undertaking a comprehensive programme of engagement, enquiry and experimentation before reporting its findings.

The commission website is here.


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