Today, I am introducing the Agriculture Bill into the House of Commons, fulfilling the government’s promise to deliver a Green Brexit. The Bill marks a decisive shift in our support for farmers. It ensures we will reward them properly at last for the work they do to enhance the environment around us. It will help them grow more high quality food in a more sustainable way, and it will ensure public money is spent more efficiently and effectively.
Nearly three quarters of England is farmland. For too long, Brussels has set the rules on how we maintain and enhance our distinctive environment, and how we grow crops and improve food production. The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy has held back Britain, economically and environmentally. Bureaucracy has stifled innovation. Subsidies have been paid based on the size of individual land holdings, not the contribution farmers make to society. Habitats have been lost and soil health eroded.
The Agriculture Bill sets out our new policy of paying public money for public goods. Its framework for investing money in wildlife habitats, clean air and water, and healthy soil – natural assets upon which our wellbeing and economic prosperity depend – will help reduce flood risk, prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure that the public enjoy easier access to our countryside. The Bill will help us leave the environment in a better state for future generations, as set out in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
On this, Back British Farming Day, the Agriculture Bill also sets out how we will support a profitable sector producing high-quality food, encourage innovative new entrants to this way of life, and help farmers get a fair price for their produce. In order to provide certainty, farmers will be supported over a seven year transition period as we as leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Bill includes measures to incentivise more long-term thinking and investment, and help farm businesses become more resilient and productive. And we will be introducing transitional support schemes to enable on-farm investment, for example in equipment and technology to deliver public goods and to support new entrants to get into farming. This is an ambitious Bill – representing the first new domestic farming policy in nearly 50 years – which ensures that our farmers’ contribution to maintaining our countryside and producing healthy food will be greater than ever before. It is the first step towards a brighter, better and greener future for farming and our natural world outside the EU.