Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will report progress on the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy.[HL717]
Lord Whitty: I am pleased to report to the House that the Government launched a Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food on Thursday 12th December. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs met farmers and leaders of the food industry, rural, environmental and consumer bodies to discuss the new strategy and hear examples of good practice from across the food chain after the launch.

The strategy is further evidence of this Government's commitment to help to deliver innovative and practical solutions to the challenges faced by those involved in the food chain. We do not underestimate the scale of these challenges: farm incomes remain under pressure and the foot and mouth disease outbreak also added to the momentum for change.

This strategy builds on the invaluable work conducted by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food to chart a way through these challenges. It sets out how industry, government and consumers can work together to secure a profitable and internationally competitive future for our industries, whilst contributing to a better environment, improving nutrition and public health and prosperous communities.

The strategy is backed by #500 million from government over the next three years. Subject to clearance under the usual EU procedures, this will provide:

    continued expansion of premium rural and environmental schemes like Countryside Stewardship: further work to improve the targeting of these schemes and make them simpler to applicants;

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    a new "whole farm" approach to management and regulation: helping farmers to plan their business as a whole to meet commercial and regulatory needs. The Government also plan to develop an audit-based approach to identify a farm's strengths and weaknesses as a basis for cutting red tape and the number of inspections required;

    the new agricultural development scheme: to improve competitiveness and marketing, including the priority areas of co-operation, farm assurance and spreading best practice;

    new funding to assist small regional food producers: extra money chanelled through Food from Britain will enable it to work with regional development agencies and the regional food groups to expand this sector;

    more money for skills and training: knowing how to make a profit is fundamental, but respecting the environment and marketing require different skills and knowledge. We are reviewing training and advice services to help farmers develop and to exploit new opportunities;

    a Food and Health Action Plan: led by the Department of Health, to build on existing work to improve diet and nutrition, working with industry and consumers. The plan will address food production and access as well as consumer information.

A network of demonstration farms: in early 2003 a pilot network of farms will open their doors to share best practice and experiences.

Improving animal health and combating diseases: government is drawing up a new animal health and welfare strategy, has strengthened our emergency preparations and efforts to combat illegal meat imports.