The future for food, farming and the environment Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy

1.The evidence from a range of agricultural businesses indicates that their sectors will face significant impacts from the proposed withdrawal of Direct Payments. The level of impact will vary by sector as the economics of each are so different. There are likely to be particularly damaging effects on grazing livestock, cereal and mixed farms and the withdrawal of support and any subsequent closures of businesses could have wide reaching impacts on the rural economy and its communities. As in our Brexit: Trade in Food report, we were disappointed that these impacts have not been thoroughly assessed by Defra on a sector-by-sector basis, to then inform future agricultural policy. (Paragraph 34)

2.We recommend that Defra produces a thorough sectoral assessment of the withdrawal of Direct Payments in response to this Report. Production of this assessment will allow Defra to better target the additional support that will be required by small and medium-sized farms and businesses in especially vulnerable sectors. (Paragraph 35)

3.We are concerned to hear that there have been minimal discussions between Defra and the Treasury over the future funding of the new agricultural policy. There was a legitimate fear among our witnesses that without early commitments to funding levels, well in advance of 2022, promises on funding levels following the transition period cannot be “guaranteed”. Any new stewardship scheme must be sufficiently resourced to achieve the Government’s commitments to restoring the natural environment. The Government should commit, in response to this Report, to fully fund the future agricultural policy and ring-fence the funds that are released from the withdrawal of Direct Payments to fund the rural economy and the environment. (Paragraph 36)

4.The consultation lacks specifics. We have noted above the absence of a thorough analysis of the effect of the withdrawal of Direct Payments and Defra’s seeming lack of urgency in ensuring guaranteed funding for agriculture after 2022. We trust that these weaknesses will be remedied in the Government’s response to this Report. (Paragraph 37)

5.In addition, to promote clarity in English agriculture, we recommend that Defra confirms as soon as possible:

Increasing farm competitiveness

6.Productivity in agriculture is falling behind many of the UK’s competitors and improving this will be vital to deliver on the Government’s ambitions. As drafted, the consultation fails to address this and the other barriers limiting farm productivity. (Paragraph 57)

7.We recommend that the Government produces a farm productivity plan by May 2019 at the latest. This could include, but should not be limited to:

Public money for public goods

8.We heard widespread support for the inclusion of animal health and welfare within the new policy of public money for public goods. We recommend that Defra commits to exploring how the funding of animal health and welfare as public goods could be achieved through trials during the agricultural transition period. (Paragraph 75)

9.The consultation paper lacks discussion of wider food policy and has failed to link agricultural policy to wider public health goals and reducing diet-related diseases. Healthy food makes a wider contribution to public health, which is in the public good and we recommend it should be supported as such under the new model of awarding payments to farmers. (Paragraph 76)

10.Defra should work to bring forward changes to Government Buying Standards to ensure greater use of healthy, affordable, British food in Government procurement. Defra should report back to us on progress in this area in six months’ time. (Paragraph 77)

11.We welcome the Minister’s assurance that the new environmental land management scheme will look to extend the success of existing schemes, such as those accredited by UKAS, and involve a wide range of organisations with experience of delivering environmental stewardship. We are further pleased to hear that the new land management system will be delivery-focused and non-bureaucratic. However, Defra has a huge task to ensure a lead agency and national framework are in place to start delivering its policy based on public goods. (Paragraph 89)

12.In response to this Report, Defra must assess which current public bodies are suitable to provide the coordination of its new environmental land management system. Given past performance of delivering rural payments and stewardship schemes, this must include an assessment of what additional skills and resources this body will require. (Paragraph 90)

13.Ensuring an effective minimum baseline of regulation will be vital to delivering the Government’s proposals to use public money to support public goods. Moves towards self-regulation and potential de-regulation following EU exit must not allow a ‘race to the bottom’. (Paragraph 97)

14.Without adequate funding to police an independent inspection regime, any system of ‘public money for public goods’ is flawed from the start. Separate from any increased funding made available to farmers and land owners to deliver public goods, the Environment Agency or equivalent public body must also receive a commensurate increase in funding to ensure public money is being legitimately spent under the new scheme; if needs be, a proportion of that increase could be funded through civil sanctions and fines to support a hypothecated catchment fund. (Paragraph 98)

Trade and labelling

15.We welcome Defra’s involvement in agri-food trade negotiations and the Minister’s statement that a trade agreement which did not allow beef to enter the UK if it did not meet UK standards is “quite possible to put together”. We recommend that, in response to this Report, Defra clearly states that it is Government policy that trade agreements should always contain provision to prevent food which does not meet our environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards from entering the country. (Paragraph 105)

16.We reiterate our previous recommendation that the Government improves country of origin labelling following the UK’s departure from the EU and introduces mandatory method of production labelling. (Paragraph 106)


17.After exit from the EU, each constituent part of the UK will be able to determine its new agricultural policy to address its specific needs. There may be areas where a common approach is helpful, such as in determining standards for plant and animal health and welfare. Regulatory alignment in these areas will support the functioning of the UK single market. Where these UK wide agreements are made, they must be agreed, following consultation, and with the support of the Governments of the constituent parts of the UK. (Paragraph 113)


18.We welcome the level of ambition in Defra’s consultation on the future for food, farming and the environment and support its aim to create a new funding model for agriculture based on using public money to pay for public goods. It should seek to deliver public support for the integration of managing the land for environmental benefits and profitable food production. We are however concerned at the absence of detail in the consultation. Too many central tenets of the policy remain unclear. Without clarity on funding, timing and delivery of the future agricultural policy, there is a risk that Defra’s welcome ambitions will not be met. We look forward to receiving clarification and the opportunity to provide pre-legislative scrutiny well before the introduction of the Agriculture Bill. (Paragraph 114)

Published: 6 June 2018