The NFU has called on government to end uncertainty over farm support funding by extending the current period for guaranteeing post-Brexit payments in England and the devolved administrations.
The draft Agriculture Bill working its way through the current Parliament has now run out of time, due to the controversial extended Parliamentary prorogation ahead of the mid-October Queen’s Speech that opens a new session. The draft Bill will have to restart the whole legislative process again.
The May administration had guaranteed CAP-level farm support until 2020, with the payments then phased out between 2021-27 in favour of a new Environmental Land Management scheme.
“It is totally unreasonable to keep farmers in a state of uncertainty about what system might be in place from 2021,” states NFU president Minette Batters. “We are proposing the government postpones its plans to move away from the current system by at least a year, to run from 2022 to 2028.
“The proposed new system was based on the UK leaving the EU in an orderly fashion in March 2019, entering a stable transition period for at least two years,” she continues. “That is obviously now a distant memory. There is every chance we could find ourselves leaving without a deal, facing huge economic disruption with farms struggling to remain viable.
“That is not the time to start dismantling the support system that has provided such important stability for many farm businesses. We hope that continued uncertainty will not require a postponement of more than a year.
“This delay is hugely disappointing after working closely with Defra and other stakeholders across the environmental and farming sectors over the last two years to ensure the Agriculture Bill was fit for purpose.”
• The Union has sent the government a list of 50 questions it wants answered to provide post-Brexit certainty for the future of British food and farming – one for each day until the present EU exit date of October 31st.
The questions range from trade and welfare standards to tariffs on imports and exports; imported farm input supplies and veterinary medicines immigration policy and the farm payment rules outside of the EU.
“Farming businesses, like the rest of the country, desperately need clarity so they can prepare for life after leaving the EU; clarity to plan for the future, have confidence to invest in their businesses and increase productivity. It’s why we need government to urgently address our concerns,” says Ms Batters.