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Overview of the latest consultation on the UK Agriculture Bill

Monday, 20 January 2020

Overview of the latest consultation on the UK Agriculture Bill

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have presented a press release highlighting the salient points resulting from the latest round of consultations on the UK Agriculture Bill for a post-Brexit UK farming framework.

The information begins by identifying and defining the provisions of “public goods” under the Bill as being through:

The 2018 Agriculture Bill

The 2018 Bill, as it left the Commons Committee, provided for the initial continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme but also its phasing out, looking at options of delinking payments or of lump sum payments of residual Basic Payment

The redirection of that money could be to any of these stated purposes:

General Provisions

In addition, the 2018 Bill addressed the general provisions for other financial payments, including; support for fruit and vegetable producer organisations and rural development; the collection and sharing of data in the agri-food supply chain; the management of exceptional market conditions. There were also provisions for marketing standards, carcass classification and the wine sector, supply chain measures including fairness in contracts, points regarding the World Trade Organisation and expectations around payments between the UK’s red meat levy boards.

Briefing ahead of the new Bill indicates that the following additional points are now to be covered, in light of giving a greater focus on food production alongside environmental issues, including:

Defra Statement

Defra have provided the following statement:

The Bill will allow us to move away from the EU’s bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy. In doing so, in England, we will move towards a new approach where farmers and land managers are able to be rewarded with public money for providing public goods, through:

The new Bill maintains our flagship policy to pay those who look after our land and animals for the provision of public goods, particularly the environmental public goods listed above. It also now includes more of a focus on food production. Environmentally friendly farming and food production can go hand in hand.

Timescales to the new Bill

Defra was keen to state in the press release that change will not be forced through at pace. Instead, a seven-year transition period from 2021 to the end of 2027 is likely to be put in place, to enable farmers and their agents to plan and adjust to a new domestic farming system. During the transition period, Defra will phase out Direct Payments in England, stating that payments will be reduced fairly in the first year. It is suggested that the biggest reductions will be applied to the higher payment bands. Defra also plans to ‘delink’ Direct Payments from the requirement to farm the land, providing, instead, options to the farmer on how they use their ‘delinked’ payments. Options may include:

Alongside these changes, Defra will also invest in supporting farmers to improve overall productivity. Individuals will still be entitled to apply for Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements initially, allowing farmers to secure longer-term funding while the systems move through the transition period. CS also allows individuals to put in place environmental practices that will prepare them well for the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. The statement concludes that no one in a CS agreement will be unfairly disadvantaged through transition to the ELM scheme.

We believe that the confirmation of the timescales is vital information for our landowner and farming clients; knowing that there will be a phase out period will allow us to work with you to plan for a future away from Direct Payments. With the budget guaranteed for the next 5 years we  at least have some reassurance there is support for the British farming community.

If you require any advice or support, or wish to further discuss what is known of the Agriculture Bill thus far, please contact one of our Rural offices where your call will be directed to the most appropriate member of the team.

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