Agriculture Bill to return to parliament this month
Environmental and animal welfare standards will be set out in a new Agriculture Bill when it is introduced to parliament later this month, the UK government has confirmed today.
This will move Britain away from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which scientists say has led to a drastic rise in pesticide use, irrigation expansion, and destruction of pasture lands.
The bill will propose a new approach where farmers and land managers are paid for delivering ‘public goods’, such as enhancing biodiversity, tackling climate change and raising animal welfare standards.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, environment secretary Theresa Villiers said the proposals would be “one of the most important environmental reforms for 40 years”.
“We want our new scheme to deliver value for money as well as boosting sustainable productivity to support farmers in their work of feeding the nation," she continued.
"We have the potential to create a virtuous circle between agriculture, tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity, and securing investment in our rural economy.”
In England, there will be a seven-year transition period for farmers to adjust to the changes, during which direct payments from the Common Agricultural Policy will be gradually phased out.
The government will guarantee the current annual budget for farmers in every year of parliament to provide support in the lead up to, and during, the transition.
Throughout 2020, It will also seek views from farmers and land managers in England on how the future Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme can best work for them.
The Agriculture Bill was originally introduced to parliament in September 2018, however, the Brexit impasse and subsequent calling of a general election derailed progress.
“Our strong British food brand is built on the high standards to which we hold ourselves," Villiers continued.
“We can maintain and indeed enhance UK standards as we negotiate new trading relationships with friends and neighbours in the EU and leading global economies.”
Image credit: ©iStock
Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM