The government has committed to introducing an independent UK farm policy through a new Agriculture Bill within the next two years.
This week’s Queen’s Speech pledged to introduce a Bill to repeal the European Communities Act and “provide certainty for individuals and businesses”. The Repeal Act is to be complemented with legislation to establish new national UK policies on immigration; international sanctions; nuclear safeguards; agriculture and fisheries.
The government says the Agriculture Bill will provide stability for farmers and ensure an effective system of support to replace the Common Agricultural Policy, enabling a “thriving and self-reliant farming sector that is more competitive” to “compete domestically and on the global market, allowing us to grow more, sell more and export more great British food”, while “protecting our natural environment”. The devolved administrations are to be fully consulted over the proposed Bill.
However, there is no detail on the manifesto’s guarantee of CAP-level support to 2022 – the minority government has already jettisoned a number of manifesto pledges to ensure it can get its programme through Parliament.
The new Bill will be a “once in a generation opportunity to enhance and promote British farming”, comments NFU president Meurig Raymond. “Carving out a new future for the farming sector is a huge opportunity for the wealth and wellbeing of the nation. We can further our substantial economic, social and environmental contribution and, with that, strengthen the nation’s ability to feed itself and the world.
“The Repeal Bill will be a long and complex process to lift EU law into UK law. As this work goes on we will be maintaining our core asks of Government to ensure British farming has the right legislative framework in place to support a productive, profitable and progressive food and farming sector.
“This is the right opportunity to embed the long term strategic importance of farming sector for the nation. But we’ll also need the support of the whole Parliament if British farming is to have a profitable future in a post-Brexit world.“
Country Land and Business Association president Ross Murray adds: “Getting Brexit right for farming is of fundamental importance to the rural economy and we welcome the fact it will be subject to detailed scrutiny during the passage of a dedicated Agriculture Bill. We will press for this Bill to deliver absolute certainty for farmers that the current system of support will continue funding at current levels for at least five years.
“The Immigration Bill is a chance for Government to provide clarity on how it will ensure businesses across the rural economy have access to the workers they need. We are confident the consensus will emerge for a pragmatic system that provides necessary control alongside providing businesses with opportunities to recruit the workers they need, from seasonal agricultural workers to tourism and the wider economy.”