This long-awaited Agriculture Bill announcement fails to articulate a comprehensive food and farming policy and leaves farmers and landowners no clearer about how they will be supported in the future, say Bidwells.
Today’s announcement appears to backtrack on previous announcements by the Secretary of State and ultimately fails to determine exactly what farmers will receive in terms of public support beyond Brexit says Ian Ashbridge, Consultant, Bidwells.
“The Government has said it will maintain the direct payments system largely unchanged until 2019 but begin to introduce reforms in 2020, including a reduction in farm support payments to the largest claimants, but Michael Gove specifically told the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural affairs Committee earlier this Summer that he had been persuaded to drop this idea, as he understood the distinction between land ownership and land occupation.
“The details of the bill announced today suggest he has either changed his mind again, or more likely, Government has rushed out this Bill because it simply cannot be delayed any longer as Britain leaves the EU on March 29th next year and this has to go through Parliament first.”
“Farmers will be disappointed to see no mention of improving productivity, food production and food security in this announcement and furthermore there is no detail on what ‘delivering for the public good’ actually means.
“The announcement claims that the direct payment system is not linked to any specific public benefits, yet the rules for such payments have long included measures to protect soil and water, protect wildlife and the countryside, and deliver safe food.
“Furthermore, the phased elimination of Direct Payments from 2012-2027, to be replaced by an unspecified Environmental Land Management System, surely cannot be guaranteed until our departure from the EU is agreed.
“In conclusion, the announcement is short on detail and will leave farmers unclear as to what is being asked of them in the future and dismayed that food production and security do not feature more highly.”