During the land tax workshop Molly Scott Cato Green Party MEP made an interesting link between the party policies and the factors of production – that typically, Conservative policies are made to protect capital, Labour policies to support people and that Green Party tries to protect and enhance land and the natural environment.
Of interest to the Green Party last week will have been the long awaited publication of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ 25-Year Environment Plan. There’s some interesting individual bits to it, but somewhat unsurprisingly there is a lack of detail - for instance our friends at Sustain (The Alliance for Better Food and Farming) have pointed out there was a lack of detail in the launch speech on food and farming generally, and as many hits as misses across a number of specific food policy areas. The team at Shared Assets (a think tank aiming to make land work for everyone) share similar concerns on use of Green Belt and Green Infrastructure.
What might be particularly disappointing for Ethex investors is the lack of detail covering smallholder farming approaches for enhancing the environment. Given the appeal of two of our recent offers Ecological Land Co operative and Stockwood Community Benefit Society, this plan would have provided an ideal opportunity to give some encouraging policy signals to the sector of it’s importance to the future of the UK. However, in reality out of 150 pages, smallholders are only mentioned three times and only then in relation to the Department for International Development (DfiD) and rest of the world practices.
So what is in the plan that social enterprises in the food and farming sector can help to support?
What seems arguably clear from this plan, is an increasing role, but also increasing measures for business and enterprise in delivering environmental improvements. On the scrutiny side are increasingly strong policies relating to peat bog resources; “ending peat use in horticultural products by 2030”. However, peat bogs aren’t used exclusively by horticulture – conventional pasture, arable, forestry farmers, domestic gardeners, allotment holders and local authority landscapers are all users of this important natural resource. In any case, the direction laid out in the plan provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to start developing enterprise models, structures and infrastructures that can supply an equivalent resource for those who produce our food, as well as other land-based crops such as fibres and crops providing ingredients for pharmaceuticals, animal feed and biofuels. These emerging businesses – or at least the ones demonstrably contributing to sustainable management of natural resources – are likely to need support from Ethex investors.