What do you mean you don’t care about food policy?

Dude, if you want to eat tomato tasting tomatoes in the summer time you should care about food policy.

As you may have heard the Australian Government is developing the first overarching go to document for all the agencies who have their hand in Australia’s food pie – agriculture, health, industry, education and others.

To write such a beastly policy the government first develops an issues paper, which goes to public comment, then develop a green paper which goes to public comment, and finally the white paper comes out, which forms the policy/plan.

We recently made a submission to the Green paper, as well as contributed to the public forum in Sydney in August. In our submission, instead of discussing the fine details of the content of the Green paper, we decided to draw to the Government’s attention some flawed assumptions underpinning the paper:

False assumption 1: Systemic change is possible without involving consumers.

Although food producers and manufacturers have a significant role to play in delivering a sustainable and healthy food system, the changes and improvements necessary are not possible without addressing the role of the consumer.  We are concerned that in its present state the NFP misses the importance and opportunities presented by demand-side interventions to change behaviour. This includes interventions from better information and education through to removing perverse price and marketing incentives.

False Assumption 2: Food production does and should take place in regional areas.

This assumption dangerously maintains the disconnect between city and country with regards to the agricultural sector. It is also ignorant in its nature, as it disregards the great potential for urban and peri urban agriculture initiatives to deliver national food needs. Although these initiatives cannot supply whole towns with food, they have great value in increasing the food literacy levels of the community.

False Assumption 3: Skills and people exist for future food production.

Despite the money in the agricultural sector in Australia, young people of rural and regional areas are less likely to study agriculture because, compared to other industries. There are few economic incentives for young professionals to enter agriculture as a career. Although this is a great challenge, it is also a unique opportunity for the Australian Government to invest innovative solutions to make the industry a respected and enticing one for young Australians. We see the solution here being significant investment in human capital. We would like to see the Government develop a succession plan for Australian farmers.

False Assumption 4: The market will improve with minimal intervention.

We are concerned that in its present state the NFP is largely advocating a free market response to overcoming challenges of health and sustainability. We would like to see the National Food Plan setting out a suite of stronger policy interventions within areas such as product stewardship, food waste reductions, responsible food marketing and ecological farming practices, to name a few. Where market based solutions are the preferred first step within this process (for example where it is believed voluntary commitments by industry will be sufficient) then we would like to see the Government play a stronger role in facilitating and demanding action. Also ensuring that this action is beneficial for all, not simply the interests of industry.

This is just a snapshot of our submission, which you can read in full here.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS?

Keep yourself informed! Check back in with us as we’ll keep you updated on when the white paper comes out.

Get active! We’re not talking about joining the gym, we’re talking about joining the movement. Become a member of the Youth Food Movement by subscribing to our weekly dose of real food inspo for your inbox.

Thanks to Bethan Harris and Michael Burnside for their expertise in putting the submission together.

Alexandra Iljadica