What are the key points of the Agriculture Act 2020?
On 11 November 2020, the long-awaited Agriculture Act 2020 (‘AA 2020’) received Royal Assent, after a turbulent and bumpy road through the legislative process. The NFU has described it as a “landmark moment for Post-Brexit farming”. The aim of the AA 2020 is to establish a new agricultural system, based on the principle of public money for public goods for the next generation of farmers and land managers. Below are some key areas:
A is for Animal Welfare.
The UK is renowned for having the highest animal welfare standards and the Government was lobbied to make this a key focus. The AA 2020 specifically mentions, “promoting the health, welfare or traceability of creatures of a kind kept for the production of food, drink, fibres or leathers”. New measures will also be introduced to improve the identification and traceability of animals, together with the introduction of animal welfare grants.
B is for BPS.
The Basic Payment Scheme (the current form of EU farming subsidy support) will be withdrawn in England by gradual reduction from next year onwards, ceasing completely by 2028. A new domestic financial support system for England is expected to focus on “public funds for public goods”. The Welsh Government is arranging their own system of new support measures, whilst Scotland is looking at its own replacement for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy post-Brexit.
C is for Chlorinated Chicken.
There has been much lobbying in the farming press and in the food industry to support an amendment to guarantee that imported food is reared and produced to match existing UK standards of health and welfare. Although no express amendment was made, the Government states that is already covered elsewhere in the EU withdrawal legislation.
D is De-Linking.
As BPS is being phased out, there is the possibility of de-linking entitlements from the obligation to occupy and farm the land upon which the payments are claimed. This may encourage some farmers who depend on subsidies to take this route to an earlier retirement and to leave the industry “with dignity” – in the words of George Eustice.
E is for ELMS…
and all things environmental. “Environmental Land Management Schemes” are expected to work towards plugging the gap left by BPS subsidy. However, these new schemes will pay out for encouraging biodiversity, improving the local environment and farming in a more sustainable way. This is certainly a change in direction from the outgoing scheme, which focussed on land ownership and crop production.
F is for Food Security.
The Government will be required to report to Parliament on food security every three years. The newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission is also expected to monitor the impact of any post-Brexit trade deals on the food and farming industry, but amendments to the Trade Bill are still awaited.
G is for Greater Transparency –
In the agri-food supply chain. The aim is to increase productivity, manage risks and address market volatility as we tackle issues such as Brexit and climate change.
Further announcements regarding the implementation of the AA 2020, and the key new support schemes and grants are expected in the coming weeks. We will keep you updated but in the meantime, we are here to help you at this time of great change.