Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by WWF-UK (AB29)

Provision of Advice to Farmers

Introduction

1. WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation organisation. Our mission is to create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together. WWF’s Food and Landscapes Unit aims to achieve sustainable land management that restores nature and sets a global example, whilst also restoring nature. We want to see productive agricultural systems that improve the health of soils and rivers, help tackle climate change, and conserve and enhance habitats and species. The Bill is the most significant legislation on agriculture in almost 50 years and with over 70% of the country being farmland, and its implementation will greatly affect the future of landscapes across all the nations of the UK. As such, WWF recognise the importance of contributing to the Public Bill Committee evidence gathering for the Bill and we have sought to make our submission useful to you.

Summary

2. WWF supports the broad intent of the Agriculture Bill to shift public funding to farming from previous area based payments towards funding that delivers broader public goods, including beneficial environmental outcomes.

3. There are areas in which we believe the Bill can be improved in order to deliver these stated outcomes, including i) a commitment to long-term funding; ii) set duties not just powers; iii) primacy of public goods over production of crops (as the condition for public funding); iv) establish a strong regulatory baseline; v) set targets to measure progress; vi) ensure future trade deals do not undermine high domestic standards.

4. In this regards we fully support the submission made by Greener UK, which elaborates on these points above.

5. This submission is supplemental and seeks to table an amendment on one additional area, namely provision of advice.

Amendment

6. Suggested amendment for consideration by the Bill Committee:

Add new clause:

Clause 1

Page 2, line 3, at end insert "(2) In giving such financial assistance the Secretary of State must ensure that any person receiving such assistance at the same time receives expert integrated environmental, technical and business advice to assist in securing the provision of the public goods for which the assistance is given".  

Explanatory Note

7. We would argue that the Agriculture Bill should require the Secretary of State to establish a coherent service for farm advice. Anyone in receipt of payments under the Bill should receive appropriate advice integrating environmental, technical and business aspects, to ensure that public goods are appropriate for the local context and are effectively delivered

8. Advice should adhere to locally agreed environmental objectives and be tailored to the circumstances of the farm business. The multiple advice initiatives should be rationalised and coordinated at a local level in order to provide greater coherence and to ensure effective use of funds and high standards.

9. In May 2018 we brought together a large variety of advice delivery organisations to develop recommendations for the future of agri-environment advice. Participants agreed that advice that integrated environment and business objective, as well as regulatory functions should be delivered by separate organisations to encourage trusted relationships between advisors and farmers. Most felt that farmers were likely to take up advice on environmental measures if there was a clear, well-enforced regulatory baseline with the threat of penalties. Further details can be provided on request.

10. Further evidence as to the rationale for this suggested amendment are also laid out in our published submission to the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the Agriculture Bill, so will not repeat here. This evidence is found at http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/scrutiny-of-the-agriculture-bill/written/91319.html

11. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/221046/pb13900-review-incentives-partnership-approaches.pdf

October 2018

 

Prepared 30th October 2018