Reflections from the 4th Annual Nourish Conference

Projects Coordinator Alexis Heeren attended Nourish Scotland’s 4th annual conference entitled “Towards a Citizen’s Agricultural Policy” on the 22nd & 23rd October 2015 in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens.

Nourish Scotland is an organisation that campaigns for a fairer food system in Scotland and is known for taking on some of the thorniest issues in food. This year the annual Nourish conference tackled the notoriously complex and expensive European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The CAP will be reviewed before the next version is released in 2020. In preparation for this the conference brought together people from academic, public sector, third sector, farming and civic society backgrounds to explore, in the words of Executive Director Pete Richie, how future CAPs could be used to create a “food system governed in the interest of the people.”
 
The CAP is a system of payments, subsidies and other instruments that are used to support EU farmers. The CAP has been criticised for failing to deliver an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food system in Europe. Since the CAP was created, farms have grown, supply chains lengthened and the food industry has been consolidated. Agriculture has many negative environmental impacts and here in Scotland we are facing a public health crisis.
One point on which all the speakers agreed was the fact that there should be a more integrated approach to food and farming. There is, in Pete’s word’s, “a disconnect between what we use our land for and feeding humans.” By re-establishing this link we would create policies that support farmers whilst promoting health, nutrition and thriving local food cultures.
Samuel Feret from ARC2020 explained that keeping people at the centre of CAP reform could also ensure the policy is used to deliver other benefits that currently lose out to market forces; things like good jobs, resilient rural communities, more agroecological farming practices, urban food production, biodiversity, high animal welfare…the list goes on! Several speakers argued that the CAP is publicly funded and so should be used public good.
 
One solution could be to link the payments farmers receive more strongly to certain outcomes and results in order to build a better food system. There is already precedent for this. Through the CAP farmers already receive a ‘Greening Payment’ for environmentally friendly practices, however Faustene Defossez from the European Environmental Bureau explained why the current requirements don’t go far enough. 
Finally, the conference discussed how to mobilise citizens to become more involved in food issues. We heard inspiring stories from young food activitsts who have taken matters into their own hands, including University of Edinburgh student Hassan Waheed from the Edinburgh Food Sharers. Participants agreed that it is important to remind people that they are not only consumers but citizens with the right to choose what our future food system should look like.
More information in the conference is available here.