Published Thursday 9th January 2020

A new year, for many, brings new ambitions for the future. Changes in approach can be common amongst businesses at this time, but the AgriFood industry is one that has been kept consistently on its toes over the last few years. The latest change comes from sustainable farming organisation LEAF and their updated Marque Standards.

Effective from 1st January 2020, the new LEAF guidelines are actioning changes in the farming industry to make it more sustainable. With environmental issues set to dominate for much of the next decade, this latest alteration is just one sign of changing times for the agriculture industry.

What Has Changed in the New LEAF Standards?

LEAF – Linking Environment and Farming – is one of the leading names when it comes to global farming assurance systems with a view to sustainability. According to the latest standards, their stated mission is “to inspire and enable sustainable farming that is prosperous, enriches the environment and engages
local communities.”

The latest update is not sudden for the industry. Public consultations on the new standard were held over December and January 2018/19, with the finalised document, Marque Standard Version 15.0, published in October 2019. Version 15.0 includes minor changes in most of its Integrated Farm Management principles, whether that’s how they are judged or the specific wording of requirements. However, more notable changes can be seen in certain areas of farm management.

The LEAF Marque has updated its standards regarding animal husbandry, placing more emphasis on the overall health of livestock alongside general welfare, while sustainability expectations have been slightly raised. LEAF also requires certified businesses to measure and record the health of their soil, a new standard included in version 15.0. The new document also strengthens provisions regarding biodiversity, including the support of native species and the inclusion of outcome-based requirements in this regard.

The most notable change in the LEAF Marque Standard, however, regards community engagement, which has seen a complete reworking of the way performance is measured. This change has been actioned to create a more flexible, globally-applicable approach to community engagement. The primary requirement of the new community engagement standards is that at least one community activity must be undertaken by the certified farm every year, the style, aims and results of which must be recorded.

Changing Times for the Agriculture Industry

It appears that the changes to communication standards were primarily necessary from an administrative point of view for LEAF. That being said, it perhaps points to the pressing short-term issues for farming that this issue formed the bulk of the latest changes to their standards.

Many topics have pushed farming into the eye of the general public over the last few years, many of them concerning the industry’s sustainability. The rise in popularity of vegan and meat-free diets in developed countries has led to many industry bodies promoting the environmental consciousness of agriculture.

In the National Farmers’ Union’s New Year message, president Minette Batters frequently mentioned the importance of promoting sustainable practices. She states that British farmers “are leading the way in climate-friendly food production,” and that in the industry “we have a fantastic story to tell” regarding animal welfare and the environment. The concern is whether that story is being told effectively to the broader public, which will be a crucial focus for the industry over the next few years.

Combined with more short-term issues such as Brexit, it is clear that there is increasing pressure on AgriFood businesses to maintain profitability through these challenges. Here at Expense Reduction Analysts, we have first-hand experience with the challenges faced by the agriculture sector over the last few years thanks to our work with some of the industry’s biggest companies. Our cost reduction consultants are experts in the field when it comes to effective supply chain management and can help to improve the long-term profitability of your company through these changing times. If you’re interested in refining your current procurement strategies, why not get in contact with our friendly team today?