The NFU has described the introduction of the Agriculture Act, as the Agriculture Bill gained Royal Assent, as a ‘landmark moment’ for post-Brexit farming.
It said, after two years of of campaigning on the Bill, significant improvements have been made to ensure the importance of food production and food security are properly recognised since the first version was published in 2018,
After the Government finally made key concessions that helped it secure agreement with the House of Lords on the Bill, the final legislation includes a requirement for a report to be presented to Parliament focusing on the impacts that future trade deals could have on the food and farming sector. Further amendments to the Trade Bill are expected to assign this responsibility to the Trade and Agriculture Commission.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed the ‘landmark moment’ that will set the legal framework for a transformation of agricultural policy in England.
“As a previously unsupported sector, the public goods agenda will bring opportunities for pig producers, with funding available for improving pig health and welfare, boosting productivity and the ability to invest in new technology. We are also pushing for ELMs to reflect the environmental benefits outdoor pig producers can bring.
“We welcome the aspiration to improve transparency in the supply chain and the addition of a food security element, alongside a requirement for greater scrutiny of trade deals and import standards.
“But in many ways, the hard work starts now as we start to put flesh on the bones of the new Agriculture Act. There is a lot of work still to be done to develop schemes that deliver genuine public goods and benefits to producers and to ensure the sector remains fully competitive.
“The NPA will continue to actively represent the pig sector’s interests as these discussions unfold.”
NFU President Minette Batters said: “As the first domestic legislation covering agriculture for over 70 years, this really is a landmark moment for our food and farming industry. Simply put, the Agriculture Act will set how we farm in this country for generations to come.
“Getting to this point has not been easy. Two years ago when the Bill was first published, the clear absence of food production and food security troubled many. The NFU made the case at the highest levels of government that this piece of legislation needed to recognise the role of farmers as food producers and I am pleased it now does that much more robustly.
“It will also now play a crucial role in ensuring our farmers are not undercut in future trade deals by food imports that would be illegal to produce here. By strengthening the Trade and Agriculture Commission and putting it on a statutory footing, the government has shown it is listening to the case we made, together with the millions of people that feel so strongly about this issue.
“However, the introduction of this Act does not mean the issue of domestic agricultural policy is solved forever. Farmers across the country find themselves in uncertain and challenging times and it is crucial that the government continues to work with the NFU and our members to shape how they use the powers granted to them in the Agriculture Act.”
CLA President Mark Bridgeman said it was welcome news that the Agriculture Bill has finally passed into UK law.
“This is only the beginning, not the end of the process for the farming industry,” he said. “The Agriculture Act serves to remind us of the profound responsibilities we, in agriculture, have; to feed the nation, to help mitigate climate change and reverse biodiversity decline, and also to help support our local communities through job creation and economic development.
“With Government’s new powers, it must commit itself to working hand in glove with organisations such as the CLA to ensure future policies actually work effectively on the ground, while also having the ambition to recognise the potential of the rural economy to answer some of the greatest questions facing the country, such as climate change.”