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Government urged to make Agriculture Bill more agricultural – by focusing more on food

PUBLISHED: 09:56 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:56 10 October 2018

Seagulls follow a tractor ploughing near Brampton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Seagulls follow a tractor ploughing near Brampton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The government has been urged to ensure its post-Brexit farming legislation has a “clear and overarching” focus on food production, ahead of the second reading of its Agriculture Bill today.

Defra’s landmark document, published last month, outlines the domestic policies which will replace the current system of payments and regulations when Britain leaves the EU and its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It includes phasing out direct farm subsidies based on land ownership – over a seven-year transition period up to 2027 – to be replaced by a new Environmental Land Management System (ELMS) which will pay public money for “public goods”, such as environmental work.

But ahead of the bill’s second reading in the House of Commons, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the policy must recognise the value of food and productive farming, and has set out its key priorities, including that the bill should:

• Promote the nation’s strategic priorities by supporting domestic agriculture to ensure food security.

• Promote improvements in the competitiveness and financial resilience of farm businesses, helping farmers to better manage risk and periods of poor market returns.

• Establish a multi-annual budgetary framework that provides certainty for farmers and allows them to plan and invest for the future.

• Value and protect British farming’s high production, animal welfare and environmental standards.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “The Agriculture Bill offers the government a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of farming policy. A bill that has an explicit and clear overarching agricultural focus, with food production at its heart, can ensure farmers continue to deliver sustainable food while maintaining our high environmental and animal welfare standards.

“As showcased during Back British Farming day, it is clear that British food and farming has overwhelming support from parliamentarians. We have seen it on countless occasions and today I am urging them to continue backing British farming by ensuring food production is at the heart of this bill.

“British farmers and growers deliver the high-quality, traceable and affordable food that the British public expect and support. It is vital that a future policy enables British farmers to continue doing what they do best – producing food for the nation.”

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