The Agriculture Bill passed through parliament in November and now awaits Royal Assent. Rural Surveyor Robyn Harper has reviewed its contents.
The Bill sets out how future support payments will be made to agriculture, with a move away from payments based upon area, which rewarded the largest landowners, to a system which rewards farmers with “public money for public goods”. Such goods include better water and air quality, improved soil quality and diverse wildlife, as well as measures to reduce the impacts of floods and tackle climate change.
From 2021 land managers have a seven-year transition period into the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS). During this period, direct support payments will be phased out under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), with the first reduced payment in 2021 and the final direct payment made in 2027.
The Agriculture Bill also includes measures to improve productivity on farms and we can deduce that there will likely be a focus on making agricultural areas ‘work harder’ to compensate for areas taken out of production for environmental benefit.
Following more than 100 hours of debate in parliament, and successful lobbying by organisations including the National Farmers’ Union, the Bill seeks to prevent UK farmers from being undercut by foreign imports produced under standards which would be illegal here. The government will also report to parliament on food security every three years, with the first report expected at the end of next year and to include analysis of food supply during the pandemic.
The Agriculture Bill has seen some important changes since its first draft in 2018. Significant changes have been made to ensure it recognises the importance of food production and food security, seeing UK farmers as custodians of a quality food supply. The support of the general public was an essential ingredient in making the government listen.
Contact Robyn on 01258 472244 to discuss the bill, and your farming business.