Following Brexit, the UK has had a once in a generation opportunity to review agricultural policy to suit todays needs and the Agriculture Bill is well on its way to gaining royal ascent and becoming UK Law.
The last time agricultural policy was reformed was following the second world war so a change is long overdue.
The Agriculture Bill proposes a number of changes to the Common Agricultural Policy and UK Legislation. Arguably the largest change is to direct payments (BPS) which will be felt by almost all farms. This change means that farmers will no longer be paid on the amount of land they farm but instead by providing public goods for public money e.g. environmentally benefiting schemes, opening up land to the public and managing soil health. Changes that many support.
This was also the perfect time to protect the ever increasing, high quality assurances and standards of UK agriculture.
In order to produce food for the nation, farmers have a mountain of paperwork, assurance schemes and standards to uphold. Whether this is complying with Red Tractor or NVZs, sprayer qualifications to Livestock Movement Records, farming is by no means an easy industry to get by, however, it is these same assurances that ensure the food we have on our plate is of the very highest order and adheres to the highest standards on the planet.
Yesterday, the Agriculture Bill became the first piece of legislation to be virtually voted on by the House of Commons . This vote was on whether to include an amendment lobbied by senior Conservative MPs, Simon Hoare and Neil Parish.
The amendment to the Bill was a logical one, in short, to protect UK Farmers by ensuring that any imports in future trade deals would meet the same UK standards our farmers must meet. Many national bodies such as the NFU and CLA were in support of the amendment and I am pleased to say that the Bill has been ame…
I am in fact astounded to write that MPs actually decided not to include this amendment to this once in a generation opportunity, and instead voted against it to assist future trade deals with the US following Brexit.
This comes as more of a shock given the recent Covid-19 outbreak where shelves were left bare and the country came to a stand still. Will America prioritise the UK with chlorinated chicken or steroid injected beef if this all happens again? I very much doubt it.
Now is the time to protect our number 1 industry, not add more pressure to the ever growing number of farms struggling to cope.
When you are next in the supermarkets, UK food may cost 20 pence more, however you are supporting the farm round the corner, the dairy down the road and inadvertently investing in maintaining your countryside!
When all of this is over, I implore you to buy British and back our farmers.
Not line them up in front of the firing squad like our MPs have just done...
There is a glimmer of light however in the fact that the Bill later cleared the Commons, after receiving a third reading by 360 votes to 211, a majority of 149.
It will therefore undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords at a later date. Will the amendment be made then? We can only hope.
Will they cut the noose or kick the box?