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This conference was an opportunity to discuss the Government Food Strategy and the pathway for achieving the aim of a healthy, sustainable, and innovative food system.
Delegates examined commitments and measures outlined in the Strategy, including in the areas of:
- support for farmers in uptake of new practices and skills development
- expanding the agri-food workforce
- food transparency and mandatory standard reporting
- development of regulation and trade opportunities
- ensuring safety and quality standards
Taking place against the backdrop of potential changes to food policy with new political leadership in government, and significant inflationary pressures, the conference brought together stakeholders with policy officials who attended from Defra; the Cabinet Office; the CCS; DAERA, NI; DHSC; DIT; Department for the Economy NI; Department of Finance NI; Food Standards Scotland; House of Commons Library; NAO; Northern Ireland Environment Agency; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government - as well as parliamentary pass-holders from both Houses of Parliament.
Those attending considered the future direction of policy, and assessed the extent to which the Government’s current and anticipated proposals address strategic challenges, as well as the way forward for implementation, and implications for stakeholders.
Overall, areas for discussion included:
- Government Food Strategy - key themes and implications - impact on key sectors - implementation priorities - monitoring progress - the potential impact of changes to policy
- stakeholder perspectives - views on the White Paper from key interests, including consumers, health, local Government, hospitality, retail, manufacturing, and agriculture
- trade and global markets - animal health and production standards - priorities in a changing geopolitical landscape - the Trade and Agriculture Commission recommendations
- food production - key areas for innovation - sustainability in the food and drink sector - fostering employment - skills development and uptake - priorities for the food sector workforce
- regulation - standards improvement and monitoring - mandatory reporting - procurement and standards transparency - addressing food crime - use of data to increase regulatory effectiveness
- local issues - resilience and food insecurity - the role of local Government and other stakeholders in achieving change - improving school food
- the policy landscape - the Strategy in the context of any change of direction from the Government measures relating to areas such as HFSS, wider aspects of public health and land management
- next steps - improving health and environmental outcomes - priorities for Government and policy-makers going forward - stakeholder roles and responsibilities - support for delivery