Agriculture Bill

This article originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper on 26th September 2018. 

Earlier this month Michael Gove announced a landmark Agriculture Bill to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). For almost fifty year the CAP has set the priorities for national farming at a European level, and as we leave the European Union this Bill will replace the current rules.

The changes announced will gradually transform the agriculture sector, giving farmers time to adapt. At the heart of the Bill is a commitment to tackling climate change. It will allow public money to be spent on enriching wildlife habitats, preventing flooding, improving the quality of air, soil and peat, raising standards of animal welfare and planting trees.

A new Environmental Land Management system will start from next year. The government will work together with farmers to design, develop and trial the new approach. Under the new system, farmers and land managers who provide the greatest environmental benefits will secure the largest rewards.

Currently we pay into the CAP, and the money is returned through Direct Payments to farmers across the EU. As we leave the EU, the government will slowly phase out this system over a seven year period, from 2021 to 2027. Farmers will be given more options on how they receive this money and how they spend it, allowing them to receive multiple payments as a lump sum if needed.

The Bill also contains a specific provision to enable government to provide financial assistance to improve productivity. This will come in the form of financial investment for research and development, such as precision farming, with a specific focus on increasing productivity while reducing environmental impacts on soil and water courses.

Data will also be shared across the agriculture industry in order to provide an overview and support information sharing of animal and plant health and pests and diseases. The Bill also allows aid to be provided to support farmers through significant market disturbances.

All of these changes are very welcome ones. The Common Agricultural Policy is one of the most significant EU programmes we are part of, so it is vital we get the replacement right. Significantly, the changes proposed are gradual, giving the agriculture industry time to adapt, and focus on the future through new farming techniques and methods to tackle climate change. This Bill proposes changes that many environmental campaigners have been working on for years, including cataloging slaughterhouse carcasses. The Bill is currently on its second reading in the House of Commons, and I hope it continues its passage into law.