Farming: Policy - Sustainable farming and food strategy

The Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy, published in December 2002, sets out how industry, Government and consumers can work together to secure a sustainable future for our farming and food industries, as viable industries contributing to a better environment and healthy and prosperous communities

Recent developments

A Forward Look of the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy has been issued, setting out key areas that will now need to be taken forward as part of the Strategy, building on the achievements to date. Supporting economic and statistical analyses have also been published alongside the Forward Look. Details of the indicators used to measure SFFS progress have also been published. The Final Report of the Implementation Group (see below for further information on the group) has also been published.

Independent Governance

Since its launch, delivery of the Strategy has been overseen by an independent ‘Implementation Group' chaired by Sir Don Curry. The Implementation Group held its last meeting in April 2006 and has produced a report (above) on their reflections on SFFS progress.

New independent governance arrangements have been set up in the form of a Delivery Group and Leadership Group (see background below).

Vision for the future of farming

David Milliband’s speech at the Royal Show on 3 July 2006 outlined a vision for the future of farming and recognised the role of the Strategy in delivering it.


The Government launched its Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food: Facing the Future in England on 12 December 2002.

The strategy built on the invaluable work conducted by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food in 2001. It set out how industry, Government and consumers could work together to secure a sustainable future for our farming and food industries, as viable industries contributing to a better environment and healthy and prosperous communities.

An independent Implementation Group chaired by Sir Don Curry, was set up in 2002 to oversee the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food. The group, which provided challenge to government and championed the Strategy among stakeholders, formally finished its work in April 2006.

The independent SFFS Implementation Group has played a key role in driving forward the Strategy to date, Ministers therefore agreed that governance of the SFFS should continue to include an external element. Sir Don Curry was appointed to lead the governance of the Strategy for a further three years but with a different group structure consisting of a small Delivery Group and a high level Leadership Group.

The Delivery Group will work informally with officials, tackling barriers to progress and providing an early steer during scheme and policy development whilst the Leadership Group will act as ambassadors for the Strategy as well as providing a high-level challenge to Government on its delivery.

Other relevant material

Review of food chain initiatives

Towards the end of 2006 a review was commissioned of the various food chain initiatives that were being supported by Defra. These included English Farming and Food Partnerships, the Food Chain Centre, the Red Meat and Cereals Industry Forums, Food from Britain, the International Agriculture Technology Centre and the Agriculture Development Scheme. 

The review was announced in the Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy (SFFS) Forward Look and took place against the background of the Defra Strategy Refresh, and the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review. It was carried out by Jayne Boys of the DfT In House Consultancy Unit. The aim of the review was to take stock of what had been achieved so far and to identify what more needed to be done, and the structures that needed to be put in place, to ensure that the industry takes action to benefit both from the tools and techniques that had been developed, and from working together more collaboratively.  We also wanted to ensure that Exchequer funding was directed to achieve SFFS priorities over the next three years.

Food Industry Sustainability Strategy (FISS)

The Strategy included a commitment to work with key sectors of the food industry beyond the farm gate to develop a "comprehensive Food Industry Sustainability Strategy (FISS) to provide strategic direction and set priorities".

The FISS, drawn up with the aid of a Stakeholder Group, sets out how all those involved in the food and drink industry beyond the farm gate in England can, through the widespread adoption of best practice, help achieve sustainable development. The FISS was launched by the Secretary of State on 26 April 2006, see news release 176/06.

Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI)

The Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) is concerned with helping promote other government policies on climate change, waste minimisation, fairly traded goods, small- and medium-sized enterprises, greater choice for ethnic customers, better conditions for catering staff and thriving, vibrant, and sustainable communities.

Report on 'food miles'

As part of the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy, Defra commissioned research from AEA Technology to review the validity of 'food miles' as an indicator for sustainability. This research, The Validity of Food Miles as an Indicator of Sustainable Development was published on the 15th July 2005.

Report of the Working Group on the use of Financial Instruments for Risk Management in Agriculture

The Policy Commission on the Future of Farming & Food recommended that Defra and HMT explore with the food and farming industries and the financial sector the potential for greater use by farmers of appropriate risk management financial instruments to hedge against currency movements and the wider risks unique to farming. This report presents the results of work undertaken in Defra and HM Treasury and by a group set up to consider the issues.

Co-operation and collaboration

The Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food notes that many primary producers need to offer the scale and continuity of supply sought by their customers, gain efficiencies of scale and introduce more professional approaches to their businesses in order for them to become more competitive. See what Defra is doing to support the growth of collaborative activity.

Page last modified: 4 April 2007
Page published: 21 July 2006

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs