MPs urged to speak up for farming ahead of ‘biggest reform of British agriculture since 1945’
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East Anglia’s MPs have been urged to speak up for the region’s crucial food and farming industries ahead of tomorrow’s key debate on the UK’s post-Brexit agricultural policy.
The Agriculture Bill represents the biggest change in farming policy for a generation as the nation leaves the EU and its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has previously governed how the industry is regulated and funded.
The bill’s Report Stage is due to reach the House of Commons on Wednesday, May 13, which is the final opportunity for MPs to discuss and amend the proposed legislation before it passes over to the House of Lords for consideration.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) says hundreds of its members have already contacted politicians ahead of the debate, urging them to ensure UK farming’s high environmental, animal welfare and safety standards “are not undermined in any future trade policy”.
And the coronavirus crisis, which has engulfed all sectors of society since the bill was last in the Commons, has underlined the importance of having a strong and resilient domestic food supply chain, said farming leaders.
NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington described the bill as “the most important piece of legislation to come before Parliament for UK farming for many decades”.
“This bill will result in the biggest reform and transformation of British agriculture since 1945 and it’s vital it sets the framework in place for a strong agricultural sector, delivering high quality food for the nation,” she said.
“Tomorrow’s report stage is a key opportunity to shape the legislation. We are asking East Anglia’s MPs to help ensure the environmental, animal welfare and safety standards of UK food production are not undermined in any future trade policy.
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“The food we see on our supermarket shelves should meet the same high standards that British farmers are proud to produce to.”
Mrs Carrington added: “This legislation coincides with one of the most serious crises our nation has faced in the form of coronavirus. This has focused minds on the critical, but often overlooked, issue of food security.
“With the longer-term challenge of climate change equally relevant to agricultural policy, it has never been more important for government, parliament, farmers and other stakeholders to work together to get this bill right.”
The NFU has made five key requests for the government to include in the Agriculture Bill.
• Food Security: The government will be required to report on food security every five years, but the NFU says this should happen every year, with requirements to prevent any decline in self-sufficiency.
• ‘Joined up’ trade and farm policy: Ensuring future trade deals require agricultural imports “to meet our environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards”, with a Trade and Standards Commission to monitor this.
• ‘Resilient farming’: Government intervention in the market should be strengthened to take account of “significant disturbances”, says the NFU, with the planned phasing out of EU basic payment subsidies delayed for at least a year.
• Support for the production of food: The NFU says this “welcome provision” could be strengthened by an explicit requirement that any financial assistance scheme is designed to encourage the sustainable production of food by producers in England.
• An “agricultural” Agriculture Bill should focus specifically on agriculture, “underpinning a farming model in the UK that is sustainable, productive and plays an active role in delivering food production and public goods”.