UPDATE FROM JESSICA EVERETT, SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, PROGRAMME COMMUNICATIONS TEAM, FUTURE FARMING AND COUNTRYSIDE PROGRAMME, DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURUAL AFFAIRS.
On Wednesday 10th June, the Agriculture Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Lords, moving it another step towards reaching Royal Assent.
Opening the debate in the House of Lords, Lord Gardiner said:
“The Agriculture Bill is the beginning of a journey that we acknowledge will take time.
“We will put farmers and land managers at the heart of that journey. It needs to be their project too; it will not work if it is not.
“We will support them through the agricultural transition by adequately rewarding them for protecting and enhancing the environment, while enabling their businesses to prosper in the production of outstanding British food and drink for domestic and international consumption.”
Summary of the Discussion
There was much discussion of trade and import standards. Lord Gardiner was able to reassure peers that, “all EU food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards will be retained and form part of our domestic law. I emphasise that that includes all existing import requirements. Any changes to existing legislative standards would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament.”
There were also some questions over whether the Bill should require reports on food security more frequently than is mandated in the Bill. In reply, Lord Gardiner noted that the five-year period set out in the Bill is a minimum, that work will be ongoing between reports, and the Government does not intend to wait five years before publishing the first report. The first report will take into account lessons learnt from the current coronavirus situation.
Lord Gardiner also addressed concerns over whether there would be a ‘gap’ in funding opportunities for farmers as direct payments are phased out before the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme is fully rolled out, clarifying that, “We will offer a simplified Countryside Stewardship scheme for 2021-24 alongside productivity grants. Countryside Stewardship will provide an additional long-term income stream whether it is for, for example, new hedges, wildlife offers, managing ponds or, particularly, livestock yards and manure storage to reduce pollution and improve water quality.
“Productivity grants will be available to invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure, such as efficient irrigation systems and precision slurry application equipment. The Government will ensure a smooth transition into the ELM scheme and no one with an Environmental Stewardship or Countryside Stewardship agreement will be unfairly disadvantaged when we transition to the new arrangements.”
You can read the full Second Reading discussion here.
Later this year, we’ll provide updates on the changes happening during the Agricultural Transition period.