Thank you for contacting me about support for farmers in Agriculture Bill.
Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, in the UK generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. I am pleased that the Government has guaranteed the current annual budget in every year of the new Parliament, giving significant certainty on funding for the coming years. Nearly £3 billion of funding will top up the remaining EU funding to match the total funding for direct payments that was available for 2019.
Future policies will help farmers continue to provide a supply of healthy, home-grown produce made to high environmental and animal welfare standards. Powers in the Agriculture Bill provides support for farmers to invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure to improve their productivity. The Bill also improves the position of farmers in the supply chain, and makes available funding for business minded farmers who want to become more productive.
I agree that many farmers are currently doing amazing things to benefit wildlife and counter the effects of climate change. I am pleased that now we have left the European Union, this country has the chance to tailor its agriculture policy to encourage this further. We will move away from the EU’s bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and towards a fairer system where hard-working farmers are paid public money for the public goods they deliver. I understand that payments will be made for activities such as conserving plants grown or used in agricultural, horticultural or forestry activity. Land management actions which improve the quality of soil are also being considered.
I am aware that land managers in receipt of Direct Payments are also required to protect hedgerows on their land. Through agri-environment schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship, their valuable role is recognised, funding the management of hedgerows to deliver recognised benefits for wildlife, landscape and the historic environment.
The Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers and land managers will 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.
The new environmental land management (ELM) system will bring in a new era for farming, providing an income stream for farmers and land managers who protect and preserve our natural environment. For the first time, farmers and land managers will be able to decide for themselves how they can deliver environmental benefits from their businesses and their land, and how they integrate this into their food, timber and other commercial activities.
Organic farmers will therefore be well placed to benefit from ELM due to the environmental benefits they produce, such as increased biodiversity and improved soil quality, which contribute to the delivery of these goals.
Finally, I welcome the Government’s very clear commitment, which I discuss in more detail here, that any future trade agreements must uphold the UK’s high levels of food safety, animal welfare standards, and environmental protection. I am also aware that the EU Withdrawal Act transferred all existing EU food safety provisions onto the UK statute book, and Ministers have made clear these standards will not be watered down in pursuit of any trade deal now that the UK has left the EU.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP