Following the NFU's recent landmark environment conference, the Government has now published elements of its draft Environment Bill.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced draft clauses to establish a new independent watchdog - the Office for Environmental Protection - create a statutory framework for environmental principles and put Defra's flagship 25 Year Environment Plan into law.
More widely the Environment Bill will cover air quality, resource and waste, water quality and wildlife protection measures.
The Government is also consulting on the indicators to be used to show environment change and how progress is measured. The NFU environment conference highlighted the need for a better data-based approach to underpin effective future agricultural and environmental policy-making to ensure that environmental successes can be recognised.
It's understood the Bill will be introduced in 2019 during the second session of Parliament.
“The NFU will examine the details of the draft Bill in the coming days to get a much clearer picture of how the proposed measures for protecting and enhancing the environment are joined up with policies that enhance farmers’ ability to produce food for the nation.
“We do need to ensure that the environmental principles are workable in a UK context and are applied in a proportionate manner and considered alongside other factors, such as socio-economic costs and benefits, as part of a pragmatic, risk-based regulatory system. The new governance body, the Office for Environmental Protection, must not duplicate the roles of existing scrutiny bodies and any powers to “hold government to account” for non-compliance must apply to central government only.
“We also need to determine how the Bill will seek to review and improve environmental legislation, such as the Nitrate Regulation, to allow farmers to make applications of fertiliser and some manures according to actual soil or weather conditions, rather than farming ‘by calendar date’, and how any environmental targets are achievable and underpinned by supportive policy mechanisms.
See also: NFU responds to proposals for new environmental body to hold government to account after EU exit
“Farmers want to play our part in rising to the government’s wider challenge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it. But we also need government to rise to our challenge to make sure that future environment policies go hand-in-hand with a future food policy, where measures for protecting and enhancing the environment are joined up with policies to improve productivity and manage volatility to ensure we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses post-Brexit.”