AN academic has urged a Yorkshire Council to form its own food company in order to help local farmers and to combat climate change.
Tom Bliss, an environmental communication expert at Leeds Beckett University, claimed Leeds City Council should create its own food brand to help supply West Yorkshire businesses, as well as creating a task force to look at issues around food production in the district.
But councillors said farmers needed more help to continue to use their land, warning a lot of agricultural areas in the region could be owned by landlords who instead wished to build on the land.
The comments came during a meeting of the council’s climate emergency committee on Tuesday.
Mr Bliss told the meeting: “A resilient food supply should be viewed as a matter of public good – that is quite a big change, as it has not been on the agenda before.
“We recommend that Leeds City Council creates a task force to create a local sustainable food brand, and have access to growers.
“Most of the food coming from around the world is coming from very far away.
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“A lot of the places around the world where food is being produced, they have been under severe threat, mainly from climate change, but conflicts and other things as well.
“There are national problems with cheap food being prioritised – and the damage that causes to health and the environment.
“The food industry itself is recognising the need to change – farmers are looking for smaller supply chains and new routes to market.
“Growing is not a difficult thing to do – nature does it – you just need to have somebody to hold your hand.
He added Leeds should create its own “food brand”, which would be supplied by local farmers and contribute towards public events in the city.
“Leeds is ready to lead UK cities,” he said. “Leeds it at the front of this. Every sector has a vital role in building a better food system.”
Coun Paul Wray (Lab) said: “One of the conversations we need to have in the council is around vertical farming – producing our own food locally, and creating jobs.
“A large number of businesses are going south incredibly quickly – we do need to take action – there is a huge opportunity for us to reduce our carbon footprint and create jobs.”
Coun Dawn Collins said: “Farmers around here are keen to stay farmers, and make the land work for everybody, but because their landlords are private individuals who want to build on and develop those sites, the fact that they have good agricultural land is secondary to them.
“I think we need to look at how we can break that stranglehold on our good arable land, and get it into the hands of farmers who want to make it good for everybody.”
The meeting followed comments earlier this week from the University of Leeds’s Prof Steven Banwart, who believes lessons can be learned from the city’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “During the pandemic, Leeds has done a phenomenal job of making sure vulnerable households are able to maintain access to good nutrition.
“That model of civic sharing and the effort that went into keeping food banks stocked and making sure everyone in the city was fed – that idea of community visibility and people engaging with charities and businesses – it is really healthy.”