The Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) is a grassroots union of farmers, growers, foresters and other land-based workers. The LWA is a relatively young and fast-growing organisation, representing over a thousand members across the UK, with around 140 of them living and working in Wales. We are a democratic member-led union, run by producers for producers, working together to improve the livelihoods of our members and create a better food system for everyone. The LWA is a member of La Via Campesina, an international confederation representing over 200 million peasants, small-scale farmers and agricultural labourers working in the struggle for food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is public access to healthy affordable food produced locally in a way that accommodates abundant wildlife and nurtures the fertility of the soil for future generations. We take this to be an indivisible right of all peoples, fundamental as the right to shelter and clean water. The question of food sovereignty exists at many levels, with national and international food sovereignty constituted by the interconnection of resilient bioregional economies. As such it is a struggle in which individuals and communities can find meaningful agency, regaining control of our food system one mouthful at a time.
With Brexit imminent and full of turbulent possibility, food sovereignty should be in all of our minds. The international export markets that Welsh farming currently depends on are at risk of being lost. Sharply rising food prices and even food shortages are possible if our access to European goods is compromised, whilst new international trade deals could flood our shops with chlorinated chicken, hormone pumped beef and other foods of drastically lower standards than our own. We find ourselves in a precarious position, at the mercy of a system we have little agency in. If our agricultural economy were based instead on small and medium scale farms producing a wide diversity of food for domestic markets, with exports playing an auxiliary role, we would be in a vastly more resilient position.
The Welsh Government’s proposed changes to agricultural support after Brexit have the potential to encourage agroecological farming and increase food sovereignty. However, this cannot be assumed. Much will depend on the detail of implementation, and how this change will interact with the impact of trade deals is unknown.
We advocate for radical measures of change in plain opposition to the centralised export-driven food system. However, we are not in conflict with the farmers who find themselves locked in that system. We stand in solidarity with those who work the land. Oppose the system, stand by the farmer.
The systemic approach is integral to the work we do, which is why we are excited to be sponsoring the Wales Real Food and Farming Conference. The holistic ambition of the WRFFC offers an opportunity to create a collaborative space in which to deepen our understanding of the issues and co-create visions of change. Something is brewing, and we are very excited to be taking part. See you there.
Sam Robinson, Landworkers’ Alliance Cymru