Following the introduction of The Agriculture Bill, NFU President Minette Batters said: “This Bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation for farmers in England for over 70 years and it is absolutely vital that it is tailored to farming’s specific needs and ambitions.
“Our farmers provide the nation with safe, traceable and nutritious food produced to some of the highest standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety in the world. With the right policy framework in place we can build on this to lead the world in the production of climate-friendly food and realise our ambitions to reach net zero by 2040.
“I’m pleased that the government has clearly listened to many of the concerns we raised with the Bill in the last Parliament and has acted to ensure the vital role of farmers as food producers is properly valued. However, farmers across the country will still want to see legislation underpinning the government’s assurances that they will not allow the imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal here through future trade deals. We will continue to press the government to introduce a standards commission as a matter of priority to oversee and advise on future food trade policy and negotiations.
“It is encouraging to see that the Agriculture Bill now recognises that food production and caring for the environment go hand-in-hand. Farmers are rightly proud of their environmental efforts and it is crucial this new policy recognises and rewards the environmental benefits they deliver, both now and in the future. Alongside this, the government’s commitment to invest in supporting farmers to improve productivity will be critical, given the delivery of sustainable and climate-friendly food systems cannot be achieved in the absence of viable and profitable farm businesses.
“A commitment to regularly report on food security to Parliament is reassuring but this must be more than simply a box-ticking exercise. It is vital that British farming continues to contribute a significant proportion of our nation’s food needs and that we set the ambition of growing more, selling more and exporting more British food. We look forward to more detail about how exactly the food security provisions will operate and how they account for the strategic importance of a robust and resilient domestic farming sector.
“The commitment to long-term future budget has addressed a significant concern of ours and will provide much needed clarity for farmers. We recognise that the way farmers are supported will change and the announcement to regularly report, evaluate and monitor how the schemes will operate will go some way to ensuring that any money taken from farmers as part of the phase out of the Direct Payments (BPS) will stay within farming. With our future relationship with the EU, our largest export market for agri-food products, still unclear, the government must ensure farmers remain sufficiently supported to weather any economic storms ahead.
“Ultimately, farmers do not want to be ever reliant on government support payments to realise a fair level of income. One of the keys to a thriving farm business is a transparent and fair supply chain, so the pledge in this Bill to improve both of those aspects is really important. Across many sectors we have seen inexplicable downward price pressure, including most recently in the beef sector. Stamping out unfair trading practices and improving the bargaining position of farmers in the supply chain are vital steps we must take across all of the farming sectors.
“In the coming days we will scrutinise this Bill in great detail to ensure that it provides the policy for a thriving farming sector post-Brexit. The NFU will work with both the government and MPs in the coming weeks to ensure that this Bill delivers on these vital issues not only for farmers, but for our nation as a whole in the years ahead.”