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Nearing the end but how much closer? Westminster Update

As England enters Lockdown 2.0 and each of us face varying levels of restrictions across the UK, it feels like progress with farming policy seems to be ‘locking down’ a bit too. The Agriculture Bill, which has taken months to get to this stage, is currently in its final throes, bouncing back and forth between the House of Commons and House of Lords in a process known as ‘ping pong’.

Despite strong calls from the NFFN and those across the environmental and farming communities, the Government has continued to resist our collective pressure to enshrine our important and internationally leading food standards into law. Whilst we welcome the concession regarding the Trade and Agriculture Commission, announced over the weekend, which will put it on a statutory footing (something NFFN has long called for), we continue to be disappointed that the Government has stopped here. Read Martin Lines commenting on this latest development with the Agriculture Bill in Farming UK here.

As we come to a close with the Agriculture Bill, our focus is now firmly on the policy development of the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs), to ensure that the bold ambitions promised by the Government for farming reform are delivered and not lost in the process. This will ultimately provide the roadmap and outline for the future of farming in the UK and we want to make sure that we get this right. Farmers need clarity and certainty on how this support will be provided, with a proper framework developed in cooperation with them, and we seriously hope that the Government will work with us collaboratively to deliver this. Our door is always open, and we are always delighted to share our members’ experiences of the effectiveness of nature-friendly farming with elected officials and others.

We also welcome the return of the Environment Bill to the House of Commons this week, which has been delayed for far too long. It is vital that the Environmental Bill raises our current environmental baseline for land management, to ensure the long-term success of farming and the recovery of the environment and wildlife. Farmers across the UK want to see a strong, independent, regulator to enforce these baseline standards. Now is the opportunity for the Government to do what is right, and there is no time to waste.

If the Government is serious about its environmental commitments and safeguarding UK farming, then we need the Agriculture, Trade and Environment Bills to all work together. This was the ambition we were promised but has sadly been considerably lacking to date.