Thursday, November 26, 2020

Government’s Agriculture Bill will ‘transform British farming’

January 30, 2020 by  
Filed under News & Business

Industry leaders continue to seek guarantees that the high standards met by British farmers won’t be undermined by a flood of cheap food imports.

It comes after the government reintroduced its Agriculture Bill to parliament – outlining plans to restructure farm support in a way that meets its goals on animal welfare, the environment and combating climate change.

Direct payments will be phased out over seven years from 2021. They will be replaced with a scheme that rewards farmers who adopt higher welfare standards, look after air and water quality, improve access to the countryside and undertake measures that reduce flooding.

Defra secretary Theresa Villiers said the planned environmental land management scheme would contribute to the government’s commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, while at the same time helping to boost farmers’ productivity.

Landmark policy

She said:  “Our landmark Agriculture Bill will transform British farming, enabling a balance between food production and the environment which will safeguard our countryside and farming communities for the future.

“This is one of the most important environmental reforms for many years, rewarding farmers for the work they do to safeguard our environment and helping us meet crucial goals on climate change and protecting nature and biodiversity.”

The government says the existing system unfairly skews support towards the largest landowners. Although overall annual funding for agriculture will remain at current levels for the duration of this parliament, it will be directed towards those farmers who deliver public benefits.

Ms Villiers said the new bill would champion British food by improving transparency and fairness in the supply chain from farm to fork. It would see investment in new technology and research to ensure farmers remained competitive and innovative, she added.

Matter of priority

But the NFU suggested it did not go far enough. NFU president Minette Batters said the union would continue to press the government to introduce a standards commission as a matter of priority to oversee and advise on future food trade policy and negotiations.

Ms Batters said: “Farmers across the country will still want to see legislation underpinning the government’s assurances that they will not allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal here through future trade deals.”

Farmers were rightly proud of their environmental efforts and was crucial the new policy recognised and rewards the environmental benefits delivered by growers and livestock producers –  both now and in the future.

“Alongside this, the government’s commitment to invest in supporting farmers to improve productivity will be critical, given the delivery of sustainable and climate-friendly food systems cannot be achieved in the absence of viable and profitable farm businesses.”

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