In a recent parliamentary address, MP Dr Neil Hudson urged local authorities and councils to bolster support for British farmers. This initiative targets a notable loophole in public food procurement policies. Under current regulations, public entities, including schools and hospitals, are not mandated to prioritise local produce, especially if it increases expenditures. This policy results in approximately £2.6 billion spent annually on food, often neglecting local producers.
Dr Hudson, representing Penrith and The Border, emphasised supporting British agriculture to uphold the UK's global reputation in farming excellence. He stated, "We must do more to maintain the UK's role as a beacon of best practice to the rest of the world."
The call for change is echoed by various food and farming advocacy groups. These groups acknowledge that while some public institutions support local businesses, there is significant room for improvement.
In 2021, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, which includes Dr Hudson, released a report on this issue. The report recommends revising the government buying standards for food and catering services (GBSF). The proposed changes emphasise nutrition, animal welfare, sustainability, and support for local food sources. Furthermore, it advocates for making GBSF standards mandatory across the public sector.
Dr Hudson expressed concern over the current trend of overlooking local farmers for cheaper, lower-quality imports. He stated, "It deeply troubles me that public bodies overlook our incredible local farmers in favour of poor-quality foreign food, and we as a nation demand better."
The MP remains optimistic about progress, especially following a positive response from the minister. Dr Hudson's efforts highlight a crucial step in redefining public sector food procurement, aiming to create a more equitable and sustainable system for UK farmers.
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