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Agriculture Bill, food and welfare standards

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Luscious green rolling hills on a sunny day

Today, the Agriculture Bill will return to the House of Lords for the next stage in its journey to becoming law.

The Bill sets out ambitious plans which will transform British farming by ensuring farmers are rewarded with public money for public goods, such as improving air and water quality and providing habitats for wildlife. At the same time, it will help to boost productivity and maximise the potential of land for producing high quality food in a more sustainable way.

Alongside the Bill, there has been speculation and misleading commentary about trade negotiations as we leave the EU and their impact on British farming including that animal welfare and food standards could be lowered, supermarkets could be ordered not to reveal where food has come from, and that pressures on farmers could mean they are forced into intensive farming methods. These claims are untrue.

The government has been clear that in all of our trade negotiations we will maintain our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change.

Any suggestions that the Agriculture Bill or trade negotiations will lead to lower animal welfare standards or an influx of low quality food are wrong.

At the end of the transition period, existing food safety, animal welfare, and environmental standards will be retained through the EU Withdrawal Act and form part of our domestic law. This includes existing import requirements.

Last week, the government also announced it will establish a Trade and Agriculture Commission, which will ensure that the UK’s trade policy fully considers our agricultural industry and our commitment to maintain our high standards.

We are on the side of UK farmers in trade negotiations and this government will work hard to ensure any future trade deals are in their best interests and will prioritise both food production and our world-leading environmental targets.

We will also ensure farmers are supported as we make a gradual transition away from the EU’s flawed Common Agriculture Policy, which simply pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed, and replace it with a system where farming efficiently and improving the environment go hand in hand. Direct Payments will be phased out over a seven-year period, avoiding a cliff-edge for farmers and giving them time to adapt their businesses.

During this transition we will offer financial assistance to enable farmers to invest to improve their productivity, manage the environment sustainably and deliver other public goods. This will also help farmers to reduce emissions and cut waste, benefiting the environment.

A Government spokesperson said:

"This government has been clear it will not sign a trade deal that will compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change.

"We are on the side of UK farmers in trade negotiations, which is why we announced last week that we will establish a Trade and Agriculture Commission, which will help to ensure all of our trade deals work for our farmers.

"Chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef are not permitted for import into the UK. This will be retained through the EU Withdrawal Act and enshrined in UK law at the end of the transition agreement.”

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble said:

“The Agriculture Bill is just the beginning of our journey to deliver a once-in-a generation transformation in the way that we farm our land and produce the food that we eat.

“We will put our farmers and land managers at the heart of that journey. This Bill will allow us to support them by rewarding protection and enhancement of the environment, while enabling their businesses to prosper by continuing to produce outstanding British food and drink to be enjoyed in the UK and abroad.

“I am delighted to move this Bill forward and I look forward to working with parliamentary colleagues to move ever closer to writing it into law.”

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  1. Comment by M.moore posted on

    It is a well known fact that it is impossible to produce food without subsidies. The whole world subsidies its agriculture. Now in the UK 650 MP"S have decided to abolish subsidies which are costing almost 4billion Pounds every year and putting nothing sensible in its place. This means that agriculture in the uk is to finish and the land left to nature. Almost every farm in the UK is losing money including the subsidy today and the madness cannot continue but our mindless vandals in Parliament have decided to scrap the subsidy and have not the intelligence to understand that you cannot produce food without subsidy.It is the end.

    • Replies to M.moore>

      Comment by Mike Powley posted on

      All countries in the world ?
      What about New Zealand ?
      Maybe farmers should rethink there farm business structures to live without subsidies.

  2. Comment by Mr R P Bradford posted on

    As a Dartmoor Farmer I have been in the highest grade Natural England Schemes for ten years... Higher Level Scheme & Organic Entry Level Scheme. It was ten years of purgatory.

    It started out okay but due to Natural England budget cuts my Natural England Advisor only visited once in ten years!

    Everything was managed by office knuckleheads working from some high-rise office block in Crewe. They had no experience in farm or land management.

    Like thousands of other farmers I was subjected to claims, penalties and fines for mapping changes that were measured not by me or Natural England but by a third party to my contract who had no legal right to be involved in the contract agreement. Why I was fined with penalties for errors or changes that I did not make still confuses me to this day. But ten of thousands of pounds was taken from me.

    The payments were late and invariably subject to claims.

    And more recently I discovered having complained at a further £23k of claims by the Rural Payments Agency only to find the complaints report were not independently written up but put together by the very employees who were at fault in the first place!

    Mismanagement and incompetency and the inability for the Rural Payment Agency and Natural England to accept ANY faults of their own means DEFRA is, I am afraid, far from being on the side of the farmer... as DEFRA allows their Executive Agency, the Rural Payment Agency and Natural England to do pretty much as they like without any oversight... excepting the occasional damning parliamentary review that gets forgotten about after the Rural Payment Agency promise to improve.

    The secret to the success of any DEFRA scheme is of course is good dialogue with the farmer and regular onsite meetings with experienced staff.

    But for now farmers are simply trampled upon by bureaucracy and spreadsheets and continued Rural Payment Agency incompetency.