The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) is to hold a two year Commission into the Future of Food and Farming as the UK prepares to leave the European Union. It says the project will “help make the case for change to build a fairer food and farming system, ensuring a sustainable future for the UK’s countryside”.

The Commission is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, which spent £9.2 million of its £49.1 2016 charitable expenditure on food and environmental work, with the RSA acting as secretariat. The Foundation “aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK”.

The RSA has appointed Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of Barclays UK and the Debenhams stores chain and a former chief executive of the Kingfisher group of retail businesses as chairman of the Commission, which will formally launch in early November. It will “engage with citizens, producers, consumers and businesses, and those representing the immense diversity of groups with a particular interest”.

The Commission’s remit is to investigate what a new UK food and farming system could look like, particularly in protecting standards and securing food supplies; reforming public investment and the livelihoods of rural communities; and making the most of any new trading opportunities.

It says it intends to develop a mandate for change in food, farming and the UK countryside; shape a food, farming and countryside system that is fairer and aligns more closely with the UK population’s expectations and values; and demonstrate how national policy can achieve change at local level.

“We will recommend how the UK should shape its food, farming and countryside policy and practice after Brexit, as a country which imports 40% of its food and where, until now, EU policy has defined the farming sector and our natural rural landscapes,” states Sir Ian.

“Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy will mean we need a whole new approach to how government ensures rural land – about 70% of which is farmed – delivers the greatest long-term benefit to UK society. Our food system is at the centre of this debate, and there are significant implications for the UK’s nations, regions and communities.

“All this is against a backdrop of climate change, emerging aspirations on future trade policy, and our ever-evolving relationship to what we eat.  A sustainable future for our countryside and our farming sector is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”