Last week, the Government’s new Agriculture Bill was introduced to Parliament, marking a decisive shift in how the UK supports its own farmers.
For too long, our farmers have been obstructed by excessive red tape and the often perverse incentive of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Government is taking action to change this.
The Bill before Parliament sets out how farmers and land managers will in future be rewarded for the work that they do to enhance the environment around us in areas such as improving air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards and measures to reduce flooding.
This new Environmental Land Management system will be developed with the input of farmers and will replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments, which is ineffective and pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. These payments are skewed towards the largest landowners and are not linked to any specific public benefits. The top 10% of recipients currently receive almost 50% of total payments, while the bottom 20% receive just 2%.
As we leave the CAP, farmers will be supported over a seven year transition period to ensure a smooth transition between systems, with the current system remaining for 2019 and 2020.
The Bill will also help farm businesses become more resilient, productive and internationally competitive. It will support farmers in getting a fair price for the food they produce as well as clamping down on unfair trading practices. The Government will also be introducing transitional support schemes to enable on-farm investment in equipment and technology.
I regularly meet with NFU branches in the Forest of Dean and, most recently, met farmers from the Newent area in July. I also meet regularly with a range of rural businesses across the Forest and offer my support whenever I can.
Leaving the EU offers the UK the freedom to set out rules and regulations that put our own farming industry first as well as ensuring we devote public money to improving our own ecosystem, and that’s exactly what this Agriculture Bill sets out to do.