Written evidence submitted by Peter Sutton (FS0002)

Food Security Issues


Q1 - What are the key factors affecting the resilience of food supply chains and causing disruption and rising food prices – including input costs, labour shortages and global events?
What are the consequences for UK businesses and consumers?                                                       


Socially resilient? 

The first issue for farmers and growers has to be asking “How to stay in business for the next few years, and at the same time get a sustainable living from the hours worked and from the investment?”.   Of particular concern in 2022 and 2023 are the availability and costs of: labour, fuel and fertiliser. 

Beyond this are the more political issues such as: Carbon farming, Net zero and emissions, Food  imports (which externalise environment damage and may raise the cost of living elsewhere), Land use policies and subsidies, Solar power, Wind turbines, and “city investors” who buy agricultural land but not for food production.         


The second issue is the long-term Government Land use policies and associated subsidies -
Public money for public goods?” 
“Three Compartment Model?”                              “30by30?”                            “Ecosystem Services?”
Do they fit into a viable long-term business plan?

In England which version of ELMS, 30by30 or the three compartment model is DEFRA playing with? And does it pay?


Third Marketing, Supermarkets/Processors and a Sustainable Food Chain? (across all three pillars social, economic and environment).     

How do we ensure growers get a fair share of the profit?  

How do we reduce the risks for tenant farmers and smallholders? 
Will politicians and civil servants address these social and financial issues for working farmers to be able to produce food and get a sustainable economic return for their efforts 365 days a year? 

4th - What policies will the major players such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and the EU enforce?  
And how does this impact the markets for supplies”, “production” and “sales” in the U.K.?                 


5th - New Technology and the need for Extension and Advisory Services.     

The worldwide importance of providing “extension services” to take new ideas through to the field is always ignored by politicians and academics in the U.K.  (They focus on the so-called pharmaceutical development model, which is also flawed as it fails to progress on infectious diseases and orphan drugs, etc where there is less money. See the Gates Foundation for examples).

Good advisory services and on farm training are essential. Support for global extension services needed as well, especially for smallholders. See the Conservation Farming Unit as a good example (in Zambia).

Examples where extension services are needed:  Biodiversity, Water Friendly Farming, Carbon farming, Net-Zero, Digital, Precision Ag, Reduced cultivations, Urban farms, Vertical farms, Insect farming, Lab grown meat, New crops, Old crops, Agroecology, Agroforestry, Irrigation...................                                                      

Q2 - What is the outlook for UK food price inflation in the short and medium term? What policy interventions should the Government consider to manage these pressures?                                                 

The prospects are dire.

This is crucial, a poor diet will continue to be a key factor in our increasing spend in the health services. Governments may wish to refrain from telling people what to eat, but the obesity crisis is real.   Yet we all know that “wartime rationing” of animal products produced a healthier population.                       

In the long term we must increase the production of nutritious fruit, nuts and vegetables and make such farms profitable. And at the same time we must increase fruit and vegetable consumption (>5 a day) by reducing the cost to less well off consumers.


Also reconsider the salt tax and the sugar tax, as in the Dimbelby report.


Q3 - How are the rising cost of living and increasing food prices affecting access to healthy and nutritious food?                     


As above, this is crucial, a poor diet and lack of exercise are major factors in our increasing spend in the health services for obesity, diabetes etc. Governments may choose to refrain from telling people what to eat, but the obesity crisis is real and yet wartime rationing produced a healthier diet.                       

In the long term we must increase the production of nutritious fruit, nuts and vegetables and make such farms profitable. And at the same time we must increase fruit and vegetable consumption (>5 a day) by reducing the cost to less well off consumers.


“Global food production has experienced massive shifts in the past century with the rise of agricultural technologies, enhanced refrigeration and transportation systems and most importantly the globalization of markets. This shift has led to shifts from export-driven crop production and cash crops. This in turn has led to the homogenization of crop production and reduced self-sufficiency. This homogenization has reduced biological diversity in the food system”,                  




“the global agricultural system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars while production of fruits and vegetables and protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population” (Dias et al 2018).


Q4 - How will the proposals in the Government’s food strategy policy paper affect:

    1. the resilience of food supply chains?;
    2. the agri-food and seafood sectors?;
    3. access to healthy, nutritious food?


See answers to 1 & 6. The National Food Strategy as published by Dimbelby comes close, but the cheap, watered down version adopted by the Government is not good enough.

The International trade agreements go counter to long term animal welfare and environmental promises.



Q5 - Is the current level and target of food self-sufficiency in England still appropriate?   

No. Both in terms of national security and food security we must do better!  Externalising the environmental impacts of our consumption is not acceptable.


Q6 - How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be stuck between land use for food production and other goals – such as environmental benefit?

My answer considers four key areas, agri-environment schemes, crop production, livestock production and fishing/aquaculture: 

6.1 Agri-Environment Schemes


Across England ELMs needs to work at this sort of scale: Woodlands 1.4 mHa,  Farmland 1 mHa of field margins etc,  National Parks (1.2 mHa) and AONBs (1.9 mHa).
Such a scheme would then properly protect the wildlife and environment for around 4 mHa (30% of England), and must be in place for decades not years. This scheme should also be integrated with the three compartment model.


Similarly effective protection is required across 30% of oceans (MPAs).


ELM & 3030 targets for England:


ELMS 1 - Sustainable Farming Initiative:

This should be based around a basic farmland package with at least 10% of all subsidised farms allocated to nature, and actively managed for biodiversity (eg hedges, trees, ponds, wildflower strips, winter bird food plots).

Farmscale studies over the last 25 years have shown that the value of AESs will be greatly enhanced by targeted options such as wildflower rich field margins, flowering hedges and winter bird food plots are added to and maintained alongside the existing semi-natural habitats in the landscape such as hedges, trees, wood and ponds.

ELMS 2 -Local Nature Recovery:

A basic system for funding the full costs of maintenance and creation of Nature Reserves (large and small), SSSIs, Nature Based Solutions and Urban Green Spaces.


ELMS 3 – Effective wildlife and environment protection in National Parks and AONBs:

The English National Parks and AONBs form a special and highly valued component of our landscape. But unlike in other parts of the world, the wildlife in our National Parks are NOT protected.
This has to change.
Our parks are both farmed and heavily visited. ELMS must endeavour to increase the protection and enhancement of their wildlife, grasslands, woods and biodiversity, and provide appropriate funding to farmers for these changes. Our NPs and AONBs require management with appropriate funding to maintain and increase their value as wildlife reserves, and to provide facilities for public access, footpaths, etc. The NPs and AONBs should provide vital breathing space for the nation’s health and well-being.


ELMS 4 - Landscape Recovery:

The Landscape Recovery scheme should add proposals for to large-scale landscape change and higher level improvements to contribute to both the Nature Recovery Network, Connectivity, Nature Based solutions and to the Government’s net zero targets.

Examples include peatland restoration, meadows, wetlands, salt marshes, waterways and water bodies, natural flood protection, rewilding, better management of ancient woodlands, heaths, scrub creation, expansion of ancient woodland, and better management of existing plantations……


ELMS – Costs and Benefits

ELMS has a budget of £2.4 billion per year, applying this to 4 million hectares works out at £600 per hectare per year. This should be enough to deliver the above unique plan for biodiversity, health and well-being.

The impact on food production would be fairly small. The DEFRA figures show that big farms dominate production by value.............74% output from 2.1% of farms on 51% of the land.
Whereas things are very different for the vast majority of small/unprofitable holdings.............
14% output from 84% of farms on 30% of the land. So the less productive land is a clear 30by30 target, a target the Government supports. By using the three compartment model we can focus our environmental needs and 30by30 on the less productive land.

I strongly believe we need (in the U.K. and globally) to move towards net zero. But at the same time we have to feed 8 billion people, and not assume that people can afford more expensive options such as fruit, nuts and organic…........So our farms have to be productive and profitable.


6.2 Crop Production


Staple Crops - Globally (and in the UK) we must maintain massive production levels for the major sources of food in our diets , such as rice, wheat, maize and potatoes. These crops are required to directly provide the main source of calories for 9 billion people. U.K. imports increase global insecurity. 
(For animal feed see under livestock ).


Protein Crops - We must increase the production of legume crops such as soya, peas, beans and lentils. We must also promote the use of these vegetable proteins in our diets.


Fruit, Nuts and Vegetables - We must increase the production of nutritious fruit, nuts and vegetables and make such farms profitable. And at the same time we must increase fruit and vegetable consumption (>5 a day) by reducing the cost to less well off consumers.


Grass and Grazing.

To a large extent this will be covered under “livestock”.

Results show that a massive 2.5 billion ha of the land is used by grazing livestock. It is true that 77% of these are now grasslands, and that a large share of these pastures could NOT be converted to croplands. But this still leaves major issues in terms of the resources used to feed animals:

-Existing grasslands should not be overgrazed, and new grasslands should not be created.

-At least 10% of all grassland should be properly managed for nature and their native wildlife should be protected.

-Land use by livestock either displaces wildlife or uses land that could grow food crops.
(N.B. The balence is wrong. There are approximately 1,400,000,000 cows in the world but only 5,000 tigers).



Clearly we need to maximise  “rain-fed” food production systems as this is the cheapest and most environmentally sensitive way to grow crops. But at the same time we must enable many dry regions produce valuable crops with better designed irrigation schemes.

To be sustainable this needs to take into account climate change, river flows and in particular not exhaust aquifers and ground water supplies.

Such plans need also to take into account the ever increasing demands from our towns, cities and industries for water supplies and for sewage services.


6.3 Livestock Production


Livestock production systems and the proportion of animal products that we consume are the most controversial aspect of any food security debate. 

We know that the typical “Western” diet is unhealthy because of the high proportion of animal products, processed foods, sugar and salt consumed. 

At the same time many millions of people suffer poverty and malnutrition.


We must reduce the resources used in intensive livestock production systems such as grain and soya; we must reduce green house gas emissions from livestock and over-grazing of grasslands; and we must have stopped the deforestation triggered by farming.


This is a major topic as livestock systems range from pasture fed to feed lots and one has to consider cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry in the production of meats, milk, cheese and eggs…….


The topics are wide ranging:   animal welfare, healthy diets, obesity, GHGs, water, land use, deforestation, wildlife displacement……


Land use by livestock either displaces wildlife or uses land that could grow food crops.
Some how we have the balance wrong:
Today we are able to feed over 5,000,000,000 head of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats to eat,

                                but only find space for 5,000 tigers.


6.4 Fishing  & Aquaculture 


Severe overexploitation of the oceans jeopardizes future fish stocks (31% of marine fish stocks are rated as over exploited and 58% are fully exploited). Hundreds of millions of people depend on fisheries for their livelihoods and food. Pollution from meat, dairy, and poultry production systems also drives ocean pollution.


Marine Protections Areas have been proven to be effective in restoring ecosystems, and to act as nurseries that allows populations to recover and spread.



Peter Sutton, 7  Sept 2022