THERE is little doubt that change is coming for the UK’s rural economy and its farming communities.
Brexit is now ‘done’ in word but certainly not ‘in deed’ as we face a transition period to determine our future European and International relations. The farming sector, with new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice at the helm, will be at the centre of those discussions.
The Agriculture Bill, re-introduced in January with some minor amendments following its 2019 suspension, represents a watershed for the UK’s rural economy. Its significance will be huge, and if there is any advice that we can give, it is to look at its implications and future-plan with those in mind.
It is worth noting that The House of Commons Public Bill Committee is now requesting views from those with expertise, experience or special interest in the Agriculture Bill; relevant parties have until Tuesday March 10 to submit written evidence. However, the sooner the better to allow the Committee time to consider any proposals.
Many landowners will have been re-assured last month when the Government introduced its Direct Payments to Farmers Bill, ensuring 2020 farming subsidies are paid, in line with those paid directly under the Common Agricultural Policy. However, this is an interim measure after which the Agriculture Bill will provide a new system of farm support, from 2021. This departs from direct payments towards an approach where farmers are paid public money for ‘public goods’ produced.
This, it is believed, will encourage the production of food in an environmentally sustainable way, with measures also introduced surrounding food security, agricultural tenancies, and animals’ identification and traceability. Concerns remain, recently highlighted by sector leaders, regarding the importance of trade agreements being aligned to the UK’s high standards, closing the door to cheaper imports.
Over the coming months preparation is needed as to the future direction landowners should take and it is perhaps at such times that ‘health checks’ are appropriate, looking with vision, and professional advice, towards a sustainable and profitable outcome.
Amy Slocombe Smith is a Senior Solicitor within the agricultural team at Wilkin Chapman and can be contacted on 01482 398384, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wilkinchapman.co.uk