Agriculture Bill reintroduced - hear from the President

NFU President Minette Batters_69628

Commenting on the Bill's reintroduction, NFU President Minette Batters said: “This Bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation for farmers in England for over 70 years and it is absolutely vital that it is tailored to farming’s specific needs and ambitions.

“Our farmers provide the nation with safe, traceable and nutritious food produced to some of the highest standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety in the world. With the right policy framework in place we can build on this to lead the world in the production of climate-friendly food and realise our ambitions to reach net zero by 2040.

“I’m pleased that the government has clearly listened to many of the concerns we raised with the Bill in the last Parliament and has acted to ensure the vital role of farmers as food producers is properly valued.
"However, farmers across the country will still want to see legislation underpinning the government’s assurances that they will not allow the imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal here through future trade deals.

"We will continue to press the government to introduce a standards commission as a matter of priority to oversee and advise on future food trade policy and negotiations.

NFU members can read a short summary of the Bill here.

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“It is encouraging to see that the Agriculture Bill now recognises that food production and caring for the environment go hand-in-hand. Farmers are rightly proud of their environmental efforts and it is crucial this new policy recognises and rewards the environmental benefits they deliver, both now and in the future.

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"Alongside this, the government’s commitment to invest in supporting farmers to improve productivity will be critical, given the delivery of sustainable and climate-friendly food systems cannot be achieved in the absence of viable and profitable farm businesses.

“A commitment to regularly report on food security to Parliament is reassuring but this must be more than simply a box-ticking exercise. It is vital that British farming continues to contribute a significant proportion of our nation’s food needs and that we set the ambition of growing more, selling more and exporting more British food. We look forward to more detail about how exactly the food security provisions will operate and how they account for the strategic importance of a robust and resilient domestic farming sector.

“The commitment to long-term future budget has addressed a significant concern of ours and will provide much needed clarity for farmers. We recognise that the way farmers are supported will change and the announcement to regularly report, evaluate and monitor how the schemes will operate will go some way to ensuring that any money taken from farmers as part of the phase out of the Direct Payments (BPS) will stay within farming. With our future relationship with the EU, our largest export market for agri-food products, still unclear, the government must ensure farmers remain sufficiently supported to weather any economic storms ahead.

“Ultimately, farmers do not want to be ever reliant on government support payments to realise a fair level of income. One of the keys to a thriving farm business is a transparent and fair supply chain, so the pledge in this Bill to improve both of those aspects is really important. Across many sectors we have seen inexplicable downward price pressure, including most recently in the beef sector. Stamping out unfair trading practices and improving the bargaining position of farmers in the supply chain are vital steps we must take across all of the farming sectors.

See also: 'The Bill is a very significant piece of legislation for English farmers'. Get an overview of the key changes to the Bill from Gail Soutar, NFU chief EU exit and international trade adviser. 

“In the coming days we will scrutinise this Bill in great detail to ensure that it provides the policy for a thriving farming sector post-Brexit. The NFU will work with both the government and MPs in the coming weeks to ensure that this Bill delivers on these vital issues not only for farmers, but for our nation as a whole in the years ahead.”

:: The NFU will provide further insight into the details of the Bill and how it affects farming's future over the coming days, keep checking NFUonline and the NFU App for the latest analysis.

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Timeline: The NFU's work on the Agriculture Bill

A brief summary of what the NFU has worked on for members in order to extend farming's voice and the NFU's asks as the Agriculture Bill was launched back in 2018, to it reintroduction into Parliament:

First introduced into Parliament (12 September 2018)

  • NFU publishes initial reaction to the release of the Agriculture Bill - including initial briefing with an overview of the announcement and what it means.
  • NFU report, UK: A Nation United by Food, sent to hundreds of MPs around the country.
  • Back British Farming Day - NFU urged politicians to demonstrate their support for British farming as Agriculture Bill enters Parliament.

Second reading (10 October 2018)

  • NFU presents top 10 asks of the Bill
  • NFU President Minette Batters urged government to make food production heart of the Agriculture Bill. Mrs Batters said: “The Agriculture Bill offers the government a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of farming policy. A Bill that has an explicit and clear overarching agricultural focus, with food production at its heart, can ensure farmers continue to deliver sustainable food while maintaining our high environmental and animal welfare standards." (read in full here)
  • Farming leaders from across Europe came together on 25 October 2018 for the NFU-hosted Beyond Brexit: Farming for our future conference in London, which called on policy makers to recognise the strategic importance of food and farming businesses in the Brexit negotiations.

The Agriculture Bill then finished its progress through the Public Bill Committee on 20 November 2018. But its progress through the House of Commons was delayed due to other pressing parliamentary business, primarily on Brexit and the meaningful vote.

The NFU provided five key asks for the Bill at this Report Stage.

We also asked members to email their MP ahead of the Report Stage debate to highlight the farming industry's key asks.

Reintroduction into Parliament (16 January 2020)

See also: