The Agriculture Bill 2019-2020 in the words of Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, is “one of the most significant pieces of legislation for farmers in England for over 70 years”. It was introduced into parliament on 16th January 2020.
In a plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040 farmers are being encouraged to deliver more food in a cleaner and healthier environment. In order to do so there is a framework for the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), rewarding farmers who protect the environment. Sustainable farming is being encouraged with subsidies available to encourage protection of the environment, combat climate change, reduce the risk of flooding and improve animal welfare. There is a realisation that sustainable farming is good for food production.
Direct payments and payments for production, the Basic Payment Scheme, are to be phased out. The government have stated that “Public money will be spent to produce a public good”. Farmers are to be rewarded for higher standards of food production. In Part 4 of the Bill there are changes to agricultural holdings law and agricultural tenancies. For example, the way in which disputes between landlords and tenants are to be resolved and arbitration. The Bill frees farmers from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and enables farmers to improve the environment and animal welfare, include public access and produce high quality food in a sustainable manner. There are provisions about the use of fertilisers, the identity and traceability of animals, reports on food security and a red meat levy. There are measures emphasising the importance of the environmentally friendly production of vegetables, fruit and other arable crops. Theresa Villiers hopes this will “transform British farming”. There are steps involved to help with the transition from one system of farming to another to support farmers and land managers to ensure a smooth and phased transition away from the CAP system to the new system, ELMS.
Farmers are to be rewarded for the work they do to safeguard the environment, a drive towards cleaner air and water. There will be financial assistance to help farmers improve soil quality, with more research and monitoring schemes regarding the quality of soil. The transition away from direct payments is to be seven years. The phased change will enable investment in greener equipment, technology and infrastructure. Of potential benefit to the entire country, farmers are to be supported for environmental protection, access to the countryside, meeting net zero targets and bringing about a reduction in flooding.
The main provisions of the Bill apply to England but some provisions will apply to the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Bill will reach the House of Lords stage of readings on the 10th March 2020.
For further information on agricultural law, contact Frank Smith & Co Solicitors on: 01242 801748 or www.franksmithandco.com