UK environment and food production to be boosted with new bill
Productivity and environmental improvements are to be boosted in the UK farming sector for decades to come with new landmark legislation.
The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has announced that a future where farmers are properly supported to farm more innovatively and protect the environment is a step closer following the introduction of its new Agriculture Bill.
The government has said the landmark legislation will provide a boost to the industry and sets out how farmers and land managers in England will in the future be rewarded with public money for ‘public goods’ – such as better air and water quality, higher animal welfare standards, improved access to the countryside or measures to reduce flooding.
This will replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments which pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed, skewing payments towards the largest landowners rather than those farmers delivering specific public benefits.
“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,” said Theresa Villiers, Environment Secretary. “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.
This is one of the most important environmental reforms for many years.”
“We will move away from the EU’s bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and towards a fairer system which rewards our hard-working farmers for delivering public goods, celebrating their world-leading environmental work and innovative, modern approach to food production.
“We will continue to champion British produce and support farmers to adapt to our new pioneering approach to agriculture through a seven-year transition period in England, ensuring we unleash the potential of our farmers for the future.”
The government has said the new bill champions British food by improving transparency and fairness in the supply chain from farm to fork and through investing in new technology and research to ensure the UK’s food producers remain competitive and innovative. It said that investing in the foundations of food production, such as clean air, soils and water, will safeguard food security and the bill will legally require any UK government to report regularly on food security.
By collecting data from across the supply chain, the government has said it will also help food producers strengthen their negotiating position at the farm gate and seek a fairer return.
In order to spend more on boosting productivity and environmental benefits, Direct Payments will be phased out over an agricultural transition period, which is due to start in 2021 and run for seven years.
Later in the agricultural transition, the government has said it plans to ‘delink’ Direct Payments from the requirement to farm the land. For farmers new to environmental work or hoping to do more than they currently do under the future Environment Land Management (ELM) scheme, the government has said the transition period will also allow them time to understand how new schemes can work best for their farm.