The Access to Land network was established in 2012 to bring together grassroots organisations promoting access to land for agroecology and a new generation of farmers. British organisations were involved from the start and shared with us their experience and analysis of one of the most unequal land regimes in Europe, and one of the most industrialised food and farming sectors, highly disconnected from local communities and consumers. They have also shared with us their experience and vision for better, fair and green food and farming.
British organisations doing fantastic work on these issues are aplenty: the Soil Association, the Real Farming Trust, the Land Workers Alliance, Nourish Scotland, the Ecological Land Co-op, the Biodynamic Land Trust, Shared Assets, the Community Land Advisory Service, Manchester Veg People and FarmStart, Cultivate, Bristol Food Producers, the Scottish Farmland Trust… to name but a few . All are working against the tide, with strength, solidarity and vision.
Many of us have been inspired, uplifted, enlightened, through exchanges with and visits to, UK colleagues and experiences, as well as from participating in workshops and pub discussions during the Oxford Real Farming Conference. We have been developing mutual understanding, building common projects, sharing meals and growing friendships. At our own scale, we have given flesh and heart to the vision of the EU founding fathers. European exchange and solidarity have become part of our daily life, work and world vision.
For decades, though, the most emblematic EU policy, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has had disastrous consequences on food, farming and the environment. It has concentrated land and production, fuelled environment destruction and wiped out large segments of the small farming sector and peasant communities. National governments have played a major role in shaping the overall EU CAP framework, while retaining important margins on how to implement it at national and regional levels (margins which are expected to further increase with the next CAP reform). Hastily scrapping the CAP would have as disastrous consequences. We need better European and national food and farming policies, fair for farmers and consumers, economically sound and fully respectful of the environment.
A no-deal Brexit, now a likely scenario, will badly hit the UK food and farming sector. Small farmers, as often, are expected to be the most badly affected, as recently recognised by the UK government. We hope it may end up yielding some positive outcomes: more local food production, more resilient farm systems, and shorter supply chains. Yet, the costs, and risks, are very high.
To UK colleagues and friends: we value your work and vision as part of our European realities and futures. We are committed to continue engaging with you, learning from your experience and sharing our own, building together.
To EU partners and citizens: institutions are not enough and can be unsatisfactory. But the EU is a post-war gift of visionary leaders acting for peace, increased solidarity and joint economic development. We must reclaim this vision and institutions, rather than disinvest them. Our role as civil society organisations is essential, both to fulfil our social mission alongside EU and national institutions and to make these institutions to account. Votes and institutions are not enough, but recent years have shown us once more that votes, and abstention from voting, can have dire consequences. Vote and make people vote in May.