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Farm Minister George Eustice discusses new Agriculture Bill

Farming Minister George Eustice has set out early plans for the UK’s new Agriculture Bill in an interview with Farmers Guardian. He signals a ‘very intense phase of engagement’ with NGOs and farming organisations during autumn 2017, followed by ‘quite clear indications’ of the scope of the Agriculture Bill in early 2018.

The new Agriculture Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech in June 2017, will give the Government the power to make payments to farmers – with the Rural Payments Agency and Natural England continuing to administer the funds. Farming Minister George Eustice indicated that payments would remain at the same level until 2020, stating, “We are not looking for any changes to the agricultural budget over the next five years.”

With regards plans for future changes, he said, “We want to start putting the provisions there to begin the transition from the system we have got now, which is largely an area-based system, to something which over time becomes better targeted, more focused on helping farmers manage risks and more focused on farm productivity.” He continued, “We also want to put in place more effective agri-environment schemes which are tailored to local needs.”

When asked about arrangements for the Devolved Administrations of the UK, Mr Eustice said, “We are really keen to ensure there are powers for the devolved administrations to design schemes which work for their own agriculture and their own environment. Everybody recognises you also need to maintain some kind of UK framework in order to ensure the integrity of the UK single market is safeguarded.”

Mr Eustice further said there would be a ‘very intense phase of engagement’ with non-governmental organisations and farming unions during autumn 2017, with ‘quite clear indications’ of the scope of the legislation early in 2018.

Discussing availability of farm labour, Mr Eustice said, “As we take back control of immigration policy, we are not going to pull up the drawbridge. We will be looking at all sorts of issues such as seasonal work permits, looking at what we can learn from the old seasonal agricultural workers scheme and looking to ensure we have in place the necessary provisions for the labour we need.”

Read the full article on the FG Insight website.

Published 1 Jul 2017

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