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John Pawsey – Healthy food that’s rewarding for farmers and for nature: Shaping the future of UK farm policy

Date Published: 11/04/2018

As Defra consults on the future of UK food and farming outside the European Union, OF&G — together with other leading organic organisations — is urging government to recognise the opportunities organic offers to deliver a green Brexit.

As part of building our own response to the consultation, OF&G is asking leaders in food and farming about what the next steps should be to ensure the country’s environment and economy are properly protected, and that our farmers have the support they need to produce safe, quality and nutritious food.

In this blog post, prominent organic farmer John Pawsey describes his vision for farming with nature and the economy in balance to produce safe, affordable and nutritious food.


John Pawsey, organic farmer, Shimpling Park Farm

Michael Gove suggests public money should support the delivery of public goods. What do you see as public goods?

I think public goods is about how to protect the long term value of our natural world by producing safe, nutritious, affordable food with the highest welfare standards whilst protecting our soils, farmland birds and landscape features.

As a country we need to produce safe food, but it’s important that we also ensure the protection of natural capital. I believe that organic farming offers these benefits, and it’s these farmers who need to be properly rewarded for the protection of our landscape and food production.

If you were Michael Gove, what would your priorities be delivering a fairer, more environmentally sustainable food and farming system?

If I were Michael Gove I would start with soil health, if we don’t protect and restore our soils they will be too depleted to produce good quality food. We need to identify the negative impacts of recent agricultural practices, such as the degradation of soil health and the decline in farmland birds, and then work with farmers to reverse these impacts.

Secondly, I would reward farmers who engage in a form of agriculture which restores our landscape and delivers public goods.

The difficulty is that not all past agricultural practices have been negative. But nutritious food and the quality of our food has decreased, which is partly due to changes in our agricultural practices.  We need to have an idea of how to farm with a natural balance and the actions we need to take to produce nutritious, affordable food.

I would also look to address the imported protein that’s coming to the UK, encourage diverse cropping ecosystems, and drive the biological and organic farming agenda rather than farming based on nitrogen fertiliser and chemical inputs.

What’s your vision for food and farming in the next 20 years?

In 20 years time I want to see a future with improved soil health, increased numbers of farmland birds and the protection of our natural landscape.

My vision would be that farmers who produce safe, affordable and nutritious food are properly rewarded so that we can compete with imports post-Brexit. This would also enable us to have higher animal welfare standards and a sustainable farming system.

The motivating thing is that all of this is possible if we get food and farming policy right, at this critical point in our history.  Michael Gove is beginning to see the advantages of a future farming policy that balances producing healthy food with nature.

We are in exciting times, but farmers need more clarification from the Government on how they plan to shape our agricultural landscape.


– OF&G is publishing a series of interviews with leading figures in food and farming to find out how we can protect our environment and produce good food post-Brexit. To read more in the series, follow the OF&G blog here.