After more than 100 hours of debate in parliament, The Agriculture Bill has received royal assent and now been passed into UK law.
The bill, which has been the topic of hot debate and some contention, set out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in the future with public money for ‘public goods’.
These include soil and water management, conservation projects, plant health, flood prevention and efforts to tackle climate change.
The bill also includes measures designed to support farmers and land managers to boost their productivity, and maximise the potential of their land to produce high quality food in a more sustainable way.
It also aims to improve transparency and fairness in the food supply chain, by introducing measures such as making provision for reports on food security, collation and sharing of data and fair dealing obligations for business purchasers of agricultural products.
While the bill was being debated, there were many calls for it to ensure any future trade agreements include an obligation to meet existing UK plant and animal health and welfare and environmental standards. Instead, the new Act requires the government to report to Parliament on the extent to which any future free trade agreement entered into with non-EU states and/or with countries which currently have a trade deal with the EU meet UK standards.
As such, many are still concerned not only about the competition UK farmers may face from overseas products, but also the quality and safety of products entering the supply chain.
Although the new Act has been welcomed by many in the industry and hailed as a ‘landmark’ moment by the NFU, much of the detail in how the changes it brings in will be implemented remain to be seen.
Those farmers and landowners seeking further clarity will need to continue to wait.