Parliament will periodically assess the food security of the United Kingdom to ensure a minimum supply disruption after the country leaves the EU and while seeking new trade agreements.
The commitment will be part of the biggest shake of British agriculture in 40 years and requires a periodic report to parliamentarians describing the sources of supply and household spending on food, as well as consumer confidence in food security.
The measure reflects concerns about possible interruptions after Brexit, as more than a quarter of Britain’s food comes from the EU and almost a fifth from other countries.
The review is one of the few in the agriculture bill, submitted to parliament on Thursday more than a year after the previous government was forced to abandon legislation in the midst of the Brexit crisis.
Other changes include a greater emphasis on the soil, at risk of excessive use, erosion and loss of nutrients; Farmers will receive help to maintain healthy soils, as well as improvements in tracking livestock movements between farms. There will be powers to regulate the use of fertilizers and organic agriculture after Brexit.
A binding commitment is lacking in the bill to avoid trade agreements that allow the import of food produced with lower standards than those to which British farmers must adhere. This has been a key demand of farmers concerned that after Brexit they will be undermined by cheap US imports. UU. And Asia, with lower regulations for food safety and animal welfare.
Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, described the revised bill as “one of the most important environmental reforms for many years” and said it would protect nature and biodiversity and help meet the objectives of The climate crisis
“[This] it will transform British agriculture, allowing a balance between food production and the environment that will safeguard our rural and agricultural communities for the future, “he said.” We will move away from the common bureaucratic agricultural policy of the EU towards a fairer system that rewards to our farmers who work hard to deliver public goods, celebrate their world-leading environmental work and their innovative and modern approach to food production. “
The crux of the bill is a change in the EU system, where farmers receive subsidies based on the amount of land they cultivate, to a process whereby farmers receive the payment of public goods provided, which include clean water, clean air and healthy soils. and wildlife habitats.
There will be a seven-year transition period for farmers to move from the current regulations under the CAP, the common agricultural policy of the EU, to a system of environmental land management contracts. Under these contracts, individual farmers will agree with the government a set of tailored objectives with details on the measures they will take to manage their land and protect the environment.
For the duration of the current parliament, subsidies at the same rate as the EU, around £ 3 billion a year, will be paid to farmers with taxpayer funds, but some of the richest farmers who benefit most from the system can expect to lose when new contracts are introduced gradually.
Agricultural leaders were disappointed by the lack of a legal commitment to ensure that trade agreements did not allow entry to cheap and low-quality imports.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said: “Farmers across the country still want to see legislation that supports government guarantees that they will not allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal here through futures. trade agreements We will continue to pressure the government to introduce a standards commission as a priority issue to monitor and advise on future food trade policies and negotiations. ”
Organic farmers were also worried, saying that the bill did not go far enough to support farmers to face climate and ecological emergencies.
Gareth Morgan of the Soil Association said: “Much more is needed to bring the radical changes our agricultural sector needs. Small adjustments to the status quo will not be enough. It is disappointing that the bill is not yet committed to supporting farmers to adopt nature-friendly agroecological agriculture, such as organic or environmental actions throughout the farm, rather than in small areas. Nor is it a sign of support to allow radical change away from the artificial fertilizers and pesticides necessary to restore nature and the soil capable of storing carbon. “
The specific attention paid to soils was welcome, but more details would be needed on how to implement measures to protect soil health, said Matthew Orman, director of the Sustainable Soils Alliance. “The commitment that all soils be managed sustainably by 2030 is now 10 years old. To achieve this, an ambitious strategy that links all policy mechanisms (education, regulation, evaluation and incentive) with clear milestones for delivery is urgently needed. ”
Vicki Hird, agricultural campaign coordinator at Sustain, a coalition of NGOs, highlighted new provisions in the bill to improve supply chain oversight. Under these changes, all sellers of agricultural products will qualify for protection against abuse by commercial buyers, which, according to her, would help eliminate unfair practices and protect farmers and could also help reduce waste of foods.