Agriculture Bill – industry reaction

There has been a mixed to the Agriculture Bill from within the food and farming sector:

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “The Bill, based around the principle of public money for public goods, clearly contains opportunities for the pig sector.

“This includes, potentially, support for our continuing drive to improve health and welfare on pig farms and for investment in buildings, equipment and technology to help boost productivity and deliver better environmental outcomes, alongside these high health and welfare standards. Funding to encourage new entrants and for new research could also benefit the pig sector.

“But the details are all still to be finalised and, as a previously unsupported sector, we will work with Defra to ensure any new initiatives deliver meaningful benefits for the pig industry. It is critical, for example, that new health and welfare initiatives focus on delivering positive outcomes, rather than trying to drive system change, and are delivered in the context the market place pig farmers operate within.”

The NPA is currently in the process of defining the pig sectors’ priorities under the post-Brexit farm support system.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “The NFU alongside, the whole food supply chain, has been absolutely clear about the essential ingredients for a progressive, profitable, and sustainable food and farming sector post Brexit. These include comprehensive measures to improve the environment and productivity and tackle volatility alongside free and frictionless trade and access to a competent and reliable workforce. The Bill, as described in the announcement falls short of our aspirations in these regards.

“It is vital that in the future British farmers can continue to meet the food needs of a growing population. A future agricultural policy that ignores food production will be damaging for farmers and the public alike. The public demand and deserve safe, high-quality, traceable affordable food, whatever their income. And moreover they want British farms to supply that food.

“Farmers across the UK will be very concerned that the Bill provides only a short term commitment to improve their competitiveness; we cannot future-proof farming businesses based on the ‘time-limited’ initiatives outlined in this announcement.

“Along with other farmers I will also be looking to the Bill to set out means to address the clear market failure in food chain that means farmers are not rewarded fairly for the risk and investment they make . 

“We are entering an historic period for farming with legislation setting the path for the next generation of farmers and the countryside. With critical decisions still to be taken in the months and years ahead it would be foolhardy for the Government to embark on such a path without knowing trading environment in which it will be set. A free and frictionless trade deal with our biggest trading partner, the EU, is absolutely critical to the farming industry.”

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “We fully support the Government’s ambition for a future where farming and food production go hand in hand with a healthy environment.

“The CLA has long promoted a contractual model for the delivery of public goods, as an alternative to direct payments, through our Land Management Contract. This should provide clear objectives and obligations for both the Government and the land manager. We are pleased the Government has recognised the full range of public benefits that farmers and land managers can deliver and that they will be rewarded for work such as reducing flood risk, enhancing soil health and air quality and improving access to the countryside.

“The Government has provided some certainty on transition. This is crucial for businesses to enable them to start planning for the future. Seven years should be sufficient for this.

“Initial proposals to cap payments for larger farm businesses would have had a catastrophic effect. Proposals to reduce payments in manageable increments, spread across the farming industry, will enable businesses to avoid the risk of rapid change with no time to prepare. T

“Recognition that the Government will bring forward support for investments such as new technologies and collaboration to boost productivity is welcome but further details are now required on how this will be made available.”

Martin Lines, Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network said:

“This Agricultural Bill is a fair deal for farmers and the tax payer. Investing in a land management plan that pays farmers for providing environmental benefits means farmers can adapt to more sustainable farming practices and deliver the nation’s food not just for today, but for generations to come.

“Finally, Defra recognise that the past CAP did not work for the farmer, the countryside or the public. It is crucial now that this Bill provides long term certainty on future funding, and that it improves transparency in the supply chain so that farmers can get a fair return for their products, and demonstrates that British farmers produce food at standards we can be proud of.”

Tom MacMillan, Director of Innovations, Soil Association, said: “We welcome confirmation that public money will be aimed at providing public goods, and the focus on soils, water and air quality that this entails, but it is disappointing that human health is not included in the list of goods that should be supported by the taxpayer. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s not the radical rethink of food production that is desperately needed if the government is serious about saving nature, restoring soil health and tackling climate change.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.