The Agriculture Bill, setting out a fundamental transformation of UK farm policy, has been agreed by both Houses of Parliament and is set to receive Royal Assent.
The ‘ping pong’ between the Commons and the Lords has ended, after members of the Lords voted on Monday by 290 to 130 not to reinstate a change relating to food import standards.
This came after MPs last week again rejected an amendment proposed by peers to require imports to meet UK standards under future trade deals, but accepted a Government amendment that will give Parliament more powers to scrutinise future trade deals and their impact on food production standards. The Government has also agreed to beef up the powers of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC).
This means both Houses have now agreed the text of the bill and it awaits Royal Assent, the Queen’s formal approval, when it will become an Act of Parliament (law). A date for Royal Assent has yet to be scheduled but it is expected to be soon.
The Agriculture Act will set the framework for a new approach to agricultural funding that will see the ‘public money for public goods’ approach gradually replace the current swathe of CAP schemes.
The Basic Payment Scheme will be phased out over a seven-year agricultural transition, starting in 2021, with money transferred from it to fund the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme.
There will also be funding for initiatives to boost farm productivity and for animal health and welfare improvements through new ‘Pathways’ for the various livestock sectors. The core principles of the Pig Pathway have now been agreed and will be consulted on soon.
The Act will require the Government to report on the state of the nation’s food security every three years, while, following last week’s Commons vote, it will also set out a need for much greater parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals and a greater reporting role for the TAC.