A new Agricultural Bill is being introduced to Parliament today setting out the UK Government’s plans for farming post-Brexit.
The Bill focuses on payments for ‘public goods’, such as improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards and measures to reduce flooding. These payments, made to farmers and land owners, will replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments.
In a statement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “In its place, a new Environmental Land Management system will start from next year. The government will work together with farmers to design, develop and trial the new approach.”
Defra has outlined that the Bill will also be underpinned by measures to increase productivity and invest in R&D. For example, there will be funding available for farmers to collaborate to develop the research projects that they want and need, whether that be on soil health or sustainable livestock farming.
The Government has also committed to making payments during the seven year transition period for famers to invest in new technologies and methods that boost productivity.
Earlier this year, Agri-Tech East hosted a workshop as part of Defra’s consultation process, offering members the opportunity to feed into the new legislation’s associated policies.
At the Cambridge-based event, farmers, agronomists, tech developers and academics highlighted the need for smaller, front-loaded pots of money that involve less bureaucratic application processes. Our members also emphasised the need for research outputs to be fed back to the agri community, both successes and failures, to ensure all learnings are captured.
Commenting on the new Agricultural Bill, Agri-Tech East Director Belinda Clarke said: “We are really pleased to see measures to increase productivity and investment in R&D included in the new Bill. There is a keen appetite among farmers to engage in the R&D agenda, in which many of our members are already active.
“There is a great opportunity to strengthen existing mechanisms that are already working successfully to facilitate this. New models of support can effectively and efficiently build on current initiatives, bringing together research and practice.”
The specific mechanisms by which farmers will be encouraged to engage in R&D are yet to be announced. Our farmer members will be sharing their ideas about how this could work with Defra at the Savills-sponsored Farmers’ Breakfast at REAP 2018. REAP early bird tickets are still available.