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The Agriculture and Environment Bills are Back

Bills a Plenty!

Now that Parliament has returned following last December’s General Election and is back in full swing, progress with environmental legislation resumes at pace, with all the following once again live and actively in play within Westminster – Agriculture BillEnvironment Bill and Fisheries Bill.

With the Second Reading of the Environment Bill (25th February) and the Agriculture Bill continuing to make its way through Committee Stage in the House of Commons, Parliamentarians are poised to make critical decisions on some of the most important legislation to face farming and the UK’s environment for half a century.

We know how vital it is for the voices of farmers and their commitment to nature and demonstration of their hard work to be recognised throughout this process. The NFFN has been working tirelessly to ensure that these decision makers understand and champion a way of farming which is sustainable and good for nature; highlighting that farming and nature can go hand in hand.

 

This has included written and oral evidence to MPs and Committees, as well as meetings with key stakeholders to ensure that sustainable farming and the aims of NFFN members are at the heart of these discussions. You can read our recent briefing on the Agriculture Bill here .

 

NFFN believes the Agriculture Bill must ensure public money for public goods and high environmental standards for trade deals; to ensure that farmers in the UK are not undercut by imported food produced to lower standards. It must also deliver strong baseline environmental regulations and a long-term funding commitment. Fundamentally, it must enable farmers to produce safe, healthy food at the same time as helping our soil, landscapes, rivers and wildlife to recover and flourish.

We have therefore welcomed the public money for public goods approach of the Agriculture Bill and are pleased to see additions to this Bill to include soil health as a public good, as well as payments for regenerative and agroecological approaches – measures that are essential to nature and climate friendly farming practices.

 

However, we remain concerned that future trade deals could undercut the high standards set by UK farmers. We strongly support appropriate additions to the Bill to
ensure that trade deals promote high standards for the environment and food, and protect farmers and the public from products which do not meet the high standards of UK agriculture. We believe that the Bill should set a robust baseline of environmental standards for land management for all, even so those who choose not to engage with any environmental land management schemes can receive financial support. A strong regulator is needed to enforce these standards.

 

The NFFN has also supported calls for greater certainty about long-term funding under the Bill. We welcome additions to the Bill that require Ministers to establish a multi-annual financial assistance plan, but we would like to see these plans strengthened to give the most reassurance possible to farmers.

 

The ultimate vision for this new farming future though is that these Bills, and subsequently the legislation and policies that will be enacted, do not operate in silos and that we see the joined up thinking that is essential to support and enable farmers, as we move forward to a new scheme, to not only halt loss but reverse the decline in our natural environment. We will be working with partners across the sector and others to ensure that the bold promises made on this are not forgotten throughout this process.

 

As always, we would love to hear from you about what you are doing on your farm and whether you would like to host a visit for your local MP to see your efforts in practice. If you would like any further information or to get more involved, please email Robert.lingard@nffn.org.uk

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