The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) wants to see DEFRA’s future policy for agriculture give greater prominence to matters of raising farm productivity alongside a new scheme to promote payments to deliver environmental and animal welfare outcomes.
Whilst the TFA is encouraged by the acknowledgement of productivity measures within the Agriculture Bill, now is the time for more meat on the bones.
TFA farm policy adviser, Lynette Steel said, “We support the Government’s aspiration for a new environmental land management scheme that will pay farmers to deliver a raft of public benefits, but this cannot operate in isolation from measures to improve farm productivity and to correct for market failures within food supply chains”.
Prior to the publication of the Agriculture Bill, the DEFRA media machine pushed out a briefing suggesting that the Government’s policy was all about public payments for public goods. Very little prominence was given to measures required to assist the industry to improve productivity. However, the Bill itself does contain clauses which will provide DEFRA with powers to support productivity development.
“DEFRA must now show that it will use the powers to introduce assistance to the farming industry to continue to deliver high quality food to UK and international consumers, produced to high standards of animal welfare and environmental management, at prices consumers can afford and at returns that reward the risk, investment and effort of the farming community,” said Lynette.
The TFA has today published a short paper setting out the principles of a new productivity scheme to sit alongside the proposed new environmental land management scheme.
“The TFA is calling for funding to be made available for investment to improve infrastructure, knowledge exchange, skills development, research and innovation. Decades of poor profitability and changes in public policy have caused us to fall behind as an industry in all these areas and has limited our productivity growth. These areas must now be addressed to ensure the success of the industry in the post Brexit era,” said Lynette.
“The Government must deliver a scheme that focuses on driving productivity, allowing all farmers to make a step change in their businesses. Beyond the Agriculture Bill, the Government’s Industrial Strategy puts productivity at the top of its list of priorities. This must also be true for agriculture and we need to see the Government giving priority to developing a scheme for productivity alongside its plans for environmental land management,” said Lynette.
“The TFA’s proposals include providing farm businesses with access to grants, loans and loan guarantees to implement robust business plans which have productivity and sustainability at their core. In this way we should secure the much-needed improvements in productivity we all want to see,” said Lynette.
“During the Parliamentary debate at Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill the Government made a firm commitment to assisting with progress towards maintaining and developing a sustainable and innovative farming industry centring on food production. Now we need the Government to show that is means business by coming forward with concrete proposals along the lines of those contained in our paper being published today,” said Lynette.