The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is urging DEFRA and the Welsh Government to accept that they will need to build in a longer transition period before introducing new policy measures for agriculture and the farmed environment.
DEFRA is no further forward from its “Health and Harmony” consultation from last year. Whilst the Welsh Government is more advanced in its thinking with the publication of its recent consultation on “Sustainable Farming and Our Land”, there are major doubts about the extent to which, it will be able to have the necessary legislative cover in time to achieve its policy aspirations.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “Our journey towards Brexit remains shrouded in uncertainty, and the prorogation of Parliament does not make it any easier to chart the way ahead. In fact, with the demise of the Agriculture Bill, which had been parked since completing its Committee Stage last autumn, it is difficult to see how the necessary legal architecture will be in place for a new policy framework any time soon.”
DEFRA Permanent Secretary, Tamara Finkelstein, told the House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee during its evidence session on Monday (09 September), that officials planning the next phase of policy development would need to see a new Agriculture Bill receiving Royal Assent before summer 2020, if current plans are to be implemented.
“Prorogation has massively concertinaed the timetable available for the development and implementation of new policy. Whilst we have the Welsh consultation in play, we are still expecting a consultation from DEFRA on a range of topics, including the proposed new Environmental Land Management scheme, delinking and lump sum Basic Payment Scheme payments and plans for improving productivity. Officials have been keen to play down the scope and depth of this consultation which seems to underline the extent to which we are not ready to move forward into a new policy sphere,” said Mr Dunn.
“Creating a completely new policy for agriculture and the farmed environment is a major undertaking which should not be taken lightly. Whilst I may be accused of merely supporting the status quo, history, with less significant change, tells me that there is a strong propensity for shambolic performance based on rushed preparations and late decision-making. We need the time and space to do this properly. It will be much better for us all if the new policy framework is introduced well rather than just quickly,” said Mr Dunn.