A leading rural agency is urging those within the sector to make their voice heard to help shape the next 25 years following the publication of the government’s consultation on future farming policy.
Fisher German has reacted to ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’ published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The consultation is the first step towards the new Agriculture Bill which is expected later in the year, and is the precursor to the legislation required to manage the transition of the UK Agriculture Policy leaving the EU and the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).
Fisher German is now advising those within the rural sector to actively engage in the consultation to ensure their voices are heard and avoid failing current and future farming generations.
Tom Heathcote, of Fisher German, said: “The EU has shaped and defined UK agriculture over the past 25 years and this consultation and subsequent Agriculture Bill will redefine and shape the sector for the next 25 years.
“It will be far reaching and represents an opportunity to retake control, to set our own agenda, and create a sustainable economy for future generations.”
The paper discusses three key areas - the transition from the CAP to a new UK Agriculture Policy, the implementation of the new policy and the framework of it.
Outlining the key points, Heathcote added: “There is strong focus on protecting and enhancing the environment and landscape which had already been mooted by Michael Gove and others previously.
“This is linked to the recurring statement of ‘public money for public benefits’ and outlines how future payments may and will be linked to this, although there is clearly uncertainty about the metrics which can be used to assess and reward this.
“There is, as already known, confirmation of the reduction of direct support after 2019. The scale and speed of this reduction is still unknown but is likely to start with capping higher payments and then become more widespread.
“The government recognises that direct support underpins the financial stability of a significant number of farming businesses and that they need time to adjust.
“The government seems committed to investing in R&D and technology to move the sector to become technologically advanced and competitive, but stops short of providing more detailed information.
“While there is a growing understanding from within the sector that they will need to change and adapt, the government must not underestimate how long this will take to achieve, even with investment and support.
“Linked with this, there is comment on increasing the resistance of farming businesses to market volatility and securing diverse income streams. There is recognition of the important role of the rural economy and the need to invest in it.
“More information about achieving this will be welcomed but to have any meaningful impact it will need to involve cross government department support and cross party support and the risk is that this will get lost in Brexit discussions.
“A lot of the policy will be determined by the trade negotiations which are as yet still unknown.
“There is very little in the paper about food production and food security which is worrying. Notwithstanding the uncertainty surrounding trade negotiations and the outcomes from these, farming’s primary function is to produce food.
“Whilst a key emphasis in this paper is on enhancement and protection of our environment, the two cannot be looked at in isolation. The government should look to bring them together to incentivise farmers to produce high quality healthy food from an enhanced and protected environment.”
Heathcote concluded: “In summary this is a visionary conceptual paper, much of which we have heard before. It is vague in a number of places but that is because the government want us to guide and consult on this.
“Let’s take this opportunity to actively engage with the consultation and get our voice heard on the shaping of the sector for the next 25 years. This is a once in a generation chance to have a joined up, united voice and we would be failing current and future farming generations if we did not act now.
“We need to urge the Government to ensure that trade negotiations do not leave UK farmers disadvantaged, that there is recognition of the importance of food production and food security, animal welfare regulations are maintained, UK farmers have easy access to foreign labour and that regulation has a complete review to change the emphasis of it.”