Agriculture Bill – Landmark Agriculture Bill to deliver a Green Brexit

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details September 2018
Publication Date 12/09/2018
Content Type

Documents and other information sources related to the Agriculture Bill launched by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on the 12 September 2018.

Mr Gove set out major post-Brexit policy proposals to invest in the environment and take back control for farmers after almost 50 years under EU rules.

In addition to the text of the Bill itself the others documents published were:

+ Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit - policy statement
+ Policy statement - timeline
+ Agriculture Bill: Analysis of the impacts of removing Direct Payments
+ Agriculture Bill: Analysis and economic rationales for government intervention

Further information

The Agriculture Bill set out how farmers and land managers would in future be paid for 'public goods', such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding.

This would replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments, which was ineffective and paid farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. These payments were skewed towards the largest landowners and were not linked to any specific public benefits. The top 10% of recipients currently received almost 50% of total payments, while the bottom 20% received just 2%.

In its place, a new Environmental Land Management system would start from 2019. The government would work together with farmers to design, develop and trial the new approach. Under the new system, farmers and land managers who provided the greatest environmental benefits would secure the largest rewards, laying the foundations for a Green Brexit.

The Bill would also be underpinned by measures to increase productivity and invest in R&D.

Background information

The Bill formed part of a suite of bills introduced by the UK Government dealing with the United Kingdom's planned leaving of the European Union.

Michael Gove had given outlines of his vision for a Green Brexit and for the UK farming industry earlier at the Oxford Farming Conference 2018 on the 4 January 2018, and at the NFU Farming Conference 2018 in Birmingham on the 20 February 2018.

Stakeholder reaction

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Minette Batters said: 'The NFU alongside, the whole food supply chain, has been absolutely clear about the essential ingredients for a progressive, profitable, and sustainable food and farming sector post Brexit.

These include comprehensive measures to improve the environment and productivity and tackle volatility alongside free and frictionless trade and access to a competent and reliable workforce. The Bill, as described in the announcement falls short of our aspirations in these regards.

It is vital that in the future British farmers can continue to meet the food needs of a growing population. A future agricultural policy that ignores food production will be damaging for farmers and the public alike. The public demand and deserve safe, high-quality, traceable affordable food, whatever their income. And moreover they want British farms to supply that food.

Farmers across the UK will be very concerned that the Bill provides only a short term commitment to improve their competitiveness; we cannot future-proof farming businesses based on the ‘time-limited’ initiatives outlined in this announcement'.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomed the Bill and said that it had long campaigned for a system which delivered better environmental outcomes and improved the viability of the sector. 'However, without detail on the amount of future investment in sustainable farming, it remains to be seen whether there will be sufficient money to support a diverse farming sector and fund the restoration of a healthy countryside and landscapes. Commitments to support new entrants are welcome, but there must also be measures to reverse the decline in smaller farms.’

Sustain said 'Whilst there is much to celebrate after years of campaigning to shift farm subsidies to better support environmental goods, the Agriculture Bill offers too little in terms of health or harmony'.

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Related Links
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
NFU: News, 12.09.18: Government must put the business of food and farming at the heart of the new Agriculture Bill
Politico, 12.09.18: UK presents post-Brexit plans to phase out farm subsidies by 2028
The Guardian, 12.09.18: Gove hails plans to reward UK farmers for adopting green policies
ESO: Find further information in ESO on UK farming post-Brexit
United Kingdom: House of Commons: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: 7th Report (2017-19) HC381: The impact of Brexit on the processed food and drink sector
ESO: Find further information in ESO on environmental policies in the UK post-Brexit
CPRE: News, 12.09.18: CPRE reaction to Agriculture Bill
Sustain, 12.09.18: Sustain comments on Agriculture Bill details
UK: Parliament: Bills: Agriculture Bill 2017-19
The Guardian, 12.09.18: 'Massive error': farmers say post-Brexit funding plan risks food scares
UK: DEFRA: Policy Paper, September 2018: The future for food, farming and the environment: policy statement (2018)
CLA: News, 12.09.18: CLA reaction to Agriculture Bill
NFU: The Agriculture Bill - all the information in one place
TFA: Press Release, 12.09.18: Government’s Plans for Agriculture Lack Balance
Farmers Weekly, 13.09.18: Analysis: How Michael Gove’s Agriculture Bill will reshape UK farming
The Conversation, 05.10.18: Rise of the ‘megafarms’: how UK agriculture is being sold off and consolidated
UK: Parliament: House of Commons: Library: Briefing papers, CBP-8405 (08.10.18): The Agriculture Bill

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