Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by the British Meat Processors Association (AB72)

House of Commons Public Bill Committee

AGRICULTURE BILL 2017-19

SUMMARY


The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) is the trade association for the British meat processing industry, which ranges from small owner-run abattoirs to large multi-site organisations. Our members employ a workforce of 75,000 people who help sustain a world-class British meat industry that delivers high-quality, affordable food to consumers. The BMPA promotes a sustainable, competitive and professional meat processing and manufacturing industry across the UK.

The BMPA welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Public Bill Committee. The Agriculture Bill has the potential to deliver real benefits for the industry and the public, but at present the absence of vision or detail is a concern for our members. Whilst we note the Bill is intended as enabling legislation, there are several areas which the BMPA believes require greater clarification:

· A focus on food production to outline what measures will be taken to increase productivity;

· Striking the right balance to improve transparency in the supply chain and preserve competitiveness of businesses;

· Recognising the unique characteristics of upland farming to support farmers achieve environmental outcomes outlined in the Bill; and

· Ensuring consistency between the devolved nations to protect the industry and the public against increased costs and bureaucracy.

The BMPA would also welcome a commitment from the Government to working with industry when writing regulation, so unnecessary cost and bureaucracy can be avoided.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Food production

Environmental measures should aim to enable more efficient use of inputs and improve resource efficiency, whilst maintaining or improving agricultural production outputs and yields. Enhancing the environment should not be at odds with improving agricultural productivity.

To encourage greater productivity, the Bill should avoid applying generic rules for farmers and producers across the country. Instead, the BMPA would welcome a framework enabling individual business plans for each farm, so that they can tailor environmental support to individual needs.

The BMPA would welcome a greater emphasis on the importance of food production and future food security in the Bill. We would like to see a provision added to the Bill requiring the Secretary of State to report to Parliament annually on what actions he or she is taking to improve UK food security.

Supply chain

The BMPA believes that more information flowing up and down the supply chain would improve efficiency. However, we would caution against the Bill including provisions on data collection that remove businesses’ competitive advantages. This has the potential to discourage investment by industry and lead to price inflation for consumers.

Upland farming

Upland farming has a unique role in both food production and how the countryside and tourism are shaped in this country. The sheep sector in the UK is built around breeding hardy stock in the uplands to be utilised as lowland breeding stock. This has been identified as one of the great strengths of the UK sheep sector internationally.

However, it will take much longer for upland farmers to achieve some environmental outcomes, especially those relating to extensive grazing systems or peatland restoration. This Bill should include a mechanism to support upland farmers facing difficulties delivering environmental goods to ensure they can continue supplying consumers with high-quality meat at affordable prices. To support a smooth transition, the BMPA would also like to see a provision added to the Bill which asks the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on the Government’s policy on upland farming.

Devolved powers

The BMPA supports consistency in agricultural policy across the devolved administrations. There is a risk that having not one policy but four could create an unlevel playing field between farmers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and increased costs to administer such a fragmented system.

The BMPA would therefore welcome greater clarity in the Bill on how the devolved governments will work together to co-ordinate their farming policies. We would like to see a duty added to the Bill which requires the Secretary of State to meet his or her counterparts in the devolved administrations on an annual basis to review how systems are working.

Nick Allen
Chief Executive

November 2018

 

Prepared 20th November 2018