The Agriculture Bill is Not Good Enough

At Autumn Conference I had the opportunity to speak with the National Farmers Union, receiving an in-depth briefing on farming issues in North Devon. I have been keenly following the passage of the Agriculture Bill through Parliament, knowing that this legislation will affect thousands of farmers up and down this country.

The Agriculture Bill seeks to provide for a range of enabling powers to ensure “stability” for farmers as the UK exits from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and compliance with the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture. It also introduces new measures to change the way in which farmers and land managers are supported in the longer term.

Many aspects of the bill will influence the quality of food produced for consumption. Getting policy on food production and sustainability right is key. Tim Farron MP, our Lib Dem Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson has warned the Bill falls a long way short.

Tim said:

Reforming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding is long overdue, and something for which the Liberal Democrats have consistently called for. However, this Agriculture Bill falls a long way short of essential reform. Liberal Democrats demand better.

Tory Ministers need to realise that to successfully encourage a change in the way farmers farm there must be secure funding to make it happen. That is why Liberal Democrats advocate a 25 year funding plan to fit alongside the 25 year environment plan.

Meanwhile, this Conservative Government has also failed to guarantee that food imports into a post-Brexit UK would meet the high standards adhered to by our own farmers. If it does not, our farmers will be at a competitive disadvantage. That isn’t acceptable.

The NFU outlines four key areas that the Agriculture Bill should address, I quote:

  • Promote the nation’s strategic priorities by supporting domestic agriculture to ensure food security.
  • Promote improvements in the competitiveness and financial resilience of farm businesses, helping farmers to better manage risk and periods of poor market returns.
  • Establish a multi-annual budgetary framework that provides certainty for farmers and allows them to plan and invest for the future.
  • Value and protect British farming’s high production, animal welfare and environmental standards.

From speaking to farmers in my area, many are frustrated that they can’t plan ahead because they don’t know what the future is going to look like. I am hearing complaints that the CAP props of some farms that do not make much of an effort and is in drastic need of reform. There is worry about Brexit, and exporting their produce to European markets. There are complaints about the paperwork currently required for meeting Environmental Stewardship deadlines, and then the delay in those payments being made. Farmers are not happy.

I believe we should listen to the people that are experts: the farmers themselves. Most are hard-working, family-owned businesses, struggling to survive. They are producing our nation’s food and they need our support. Let’s get this Agricultural Bill right for them and for us.

* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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7 Comments

  • Jack Graham 11th Oct '18 - 1:08pm

    ” would meet the high standards adhered to by our own farmers ”

    Would that be the high standards that cause foot and mouth outbreaks, that allows food from other EU countries that includes unlabelled horsemeat and repackaged old food to be imported and sold apparently without any checks, and what about feeding animal protein to herbivores creating BSE in cattle, and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans?

    We need farmers, and we need to ensure they have support, but all these issues have arisen whilst supposedly working under the rule and guidance of both the EU and the the British authorities, what on earth could happen from imported food that hasn’t already happened under the corruption of the CAP.

  • Jack Graham 11th Oct '18 - 8:22pm

    @ Frankie

    “Ah bless Jack”

    Oh dear!

    ‘There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden, and his name is Wiggly Woo’

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e0PVI9RknI

    My grandson loves this, it really settles him down, you might find it useful.

  • Ah Jack and now we know where you get your knowledge of agriculture the worm at the end of the garden.

    I’m sure you are a great follower of the Brexit cheer leader Luke Johnson, a partner at Risk Capital Partners, who said: “Do ordinary people stop buying coffee or a meal because of Brexit? I don’t think so. Business is about overcoming challenges and being positive; you can get yourself into a gloomy site, but I think most of the time pessimists do not succeed.”

    https://www.thecaterer.com/articles/532472/investor-robin-rowland-on-brexit-get-down-get-real-and-get-on-with-it

    Well he doesn’t look like he’s succeeding at present

    Patisserie Valerie crisis rocks Luke Johnson’s business career

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/oct/11/patisserie-valerie-crisis-rocks-luke-johnsons-business-career

    Perhaps Brexit has dampened demand and it hasn’t even happened yet. Tick Tock the chickens are coming home to roost.

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