The UK’s new Agriculture Bill has passed into the UK law on 11th of November 2020. After Brexit, The Agriculture Act will help to improve the agriculture and farming for generations to come. British farmers will stay competitive in international trade and they will be able to invest new technologies with the support of the Agriculture Act.
In our blog the Agricultural Bill was addressed and we discussed about that Agriculture Act is a unique chance to reform farming policy and ensure healthy farmland that can support food production into the future.
The Agriculture Bill received Royal Assent, following over a hundred hours of parliamentary scrutiny since its introduction to Parliament in January this year. The final hurdle saw the Lords voted not to reinstate an amendment specifying that imports match UK standards, after MPs agreed to allow greater parliamentary scrutiny and beef up the powers of Trade and Agriculture Commission, bringing compromise to the most heated element of the debate over the Bill’s contents.
Our landmark Agriculture Act will transform the way we support farmersGeorge Eustice, Defra Secretary
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis stated, “Rarely has a Bill had the benefit of so much scrutiny during its passage through Parliament – with MPs and peers debating it for over 100 hours in total.”
“This Bill is just the beginning of our journey to deliver a once-in-a generation transformation to the way that we farm our land and produce the food that we eat.”Victoria Prentis, Secretary of State at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
What is Agriculture Act and why the act is so important?
The Agriculture Act provides the framework for the establishment of a new legislation of agricultural for farmers and producers by providing fairly broad powers to current and future governments to provide financial assistance and make other policy interventions. The Agriculture Act in a nutshell:
- A Bill to authorise expenditure for certain agricultural and other purposes.
- The law produces provision about direct payments following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and about payments in response to exceptional market conditions affecting agricultural markets
- The Agricultural act will make provision about reports on food security and standards.
- And to make provision about the acquisition and use of information connected with food supply chains.
- The bill confers powers to make regulations about the imposition of obligations on business purchasers of agricultural products, marketing standards, organic products and the classification of carcasses.
- The Agricultural act makes provision for the recognition of associations of agricultural producers which may benefit from certain exemptions from competition law.
- The bill plans about the identification and traceability of animals.
- Furthermore, the new bill arranges regulations about securing compliance with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.
It also sets out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in the future with public money for “public goods” – such as better air and water quality, thriving wildlife, soil health, or measures to reduce flooding and tackle the effects of climate change, under the Environmental Land Management scheme.
These incentives will provide a powerful vehicle for achieving the goals of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and our commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Grey areas on food quality and standards are bothering
This was not in the draft bill at the start of its legislative journey, but successful lobbying now means the Government have a duty to report to Parliament on UK food security. The first report will be due at the end of 2021 and then every three years. The government states,
“The government will now be able to further champion food production by improving the transparency and fairness in the supply chain from farm to fork, as well as keeping our world-famous food producers competitive and innovative by investing in the latest technology and research.”Landmark Agriculture Bill becomes law – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Government will report on UK food security to Parliament every three years. The first report will be published at the end of next year, and will include analysis of the impacts on food supply of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a wide range of themes including global availability of food, food safety and consumer confidence.
But as we understood, time will show the government’s will to secure the food safety and high-quality standards under the new agriculture act.
The most concerning is the lack of assurance around trade policies and import standards. It is crucial that imports of food under future trade policies are held to UK standards.
Earlier this year, Jamie Oliver wrote a letter to PM Boris Johnston
He noted “the floodgates to a whole raft of low-quality food that would normally be illegal in the UK. Chlorinated chicken is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking about genetically modified food, stuffing animals full of hormones and antibiotics, banned pesticides that kill our bees, and an avalanche of foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar…
We all want the government should ensure that any future trade policy ensures that goods imported under a free trade agreement are produced to as high or higher standards of animal welfare, environmental protection, food hygiene and plant health, as are currently applied under the Agriculture Act.
What is new in this Bill compared to when the first Bill was introduced in 2019?
- The updated Bill maintains our flagship policy to pay those who look after our land and animals for the provision of public goods, but now it also includes more focus on food production. Environmentally-friendly farming and food production can and should go hand in hand.
- Food security – we’re placing a duty in law for Government to report regularly to Parliament on food security. This will include the crucial role of our domestic production alongside supply from a diverse range of sources.
- Soil quality – we know that soil is an essential asset for farmers, and also delivers a whole host of public goods. We’ve made sure soil is included in the Bill and farmers can receive financial assistance for protecting and improving its quality.
- Financial assistance monitoring – the Secretary of State will monitor, evaluate and regularly report on our financial assistance schemes. This means Parliament and our stakeholders will be able to scrutinise how well the schemes work.
- An animal traceability service – the powers to enable a new service provider, who will better collect and manage information relating to the identification, movement and health of animals.
Fertiliser regulation – the power to effectively regulate this industry as we leave the EU.
- Organics regulation – powers to tailor organics regulation so that it works for UK producers, and so we can continue to trade organic produce across the world.
When will the changes come into effect?
- The changes won’t be immediate. The seven year transition period will start in 2021 and continue through to the end of 2027.
- The national pilot for the new Environmental Land Management scheme is expected to be open for participants by the end of 2021 with the scheme fully operational in 2024.