Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Agricultural Christian Fellowship (AB37)

Written Evidence for the Agricultural Bill

1. Summary:

· A brief description of the Agricultural Christian Fellowship (ACF)

· A welcome to the Bill’s continued support for agriculture

· Some concerns shared with other organisations

· Some particular concerns of the ACF

· Some recommended amendments and actions to be included in the Bill

2. The Agricultural Christian Fellowship (ACF) promotes Christian perspectives on relationships between people, the food we eat and how it is grown and reared, farmers and with the natural environment. In the past, the ACF played a leading part in the establishment of the Farming Community Network (FCN). Today, the ACF calls for transformational relationships leading to real partnership between farmers and government and to better stewardship of the earth’s resources for this and future generations. "Then the earth will yield its harvests".

3 As outlined in the 2017-2019 Agriculture Bill, the ACF welcomes the 2019-2020 Agriculture Bill’s continued commitment to the UK’s farming sector: the renewal of agricultural support systems, new land management approaches including ‘public money for public goods.’ We also welcome the introduction of safeguards in agricultural supply chains, opportunities for Producer Organisations that reflect wider societal interest in healthier eating, food security, organic standards and agro-ecology and introduction of some safeguards for agricultural tenancies.

4 The ACF however shares the concerns of other food, farming and environmental groups regarding inadequacies in the 2019-2020 Agriculture Bill that include the following:

- Food production as a ‘public good’: that food produced using state-of-the-art environmentally sustainable production methods and delivered to local UK markets be regarded as a ‘public good’

- Import standards: that import standards will continue to prevent the ‘export’ of unfair agricultural wages, inappropriate use of fertilizer and pesticide and water and carbon footprints to other countries and communities

- Phasing out direct payments: that the Bill should allow for basic farm payments to be capped at £150,000.

5 The ACF also has other concerns:

- Farming as social action: that there could be more explicit reference to the important role farmers and farms can play in children’s education, in supporting disadvantaged people or in rehabilitating prisoners. There is already good work being done in these areas, but it would benefit from more explicit policy and financial support

- Delivery of support: that the Bill says little about how the various support measures will be delivered. We are concerned that support may be through ‘complicated schemes’ that are difficult to access which will result in the capture of schemes by the ‘better informed’ rather than there being equitable and accessible to all farmers

- Climate action: that climate change does not receive the priority we feel it requires. We feel the UK could play a more influential and central role in mitigating climate change worldwide and that the agriculture sector could play an important role in this.

6 Based on our reading of the 2019-2020 Agriculture Bill, the ACF offers the following amendments and actions for consideration:

- Food production as a ‘public good’ - Clause 1: adds "producing food in a way that mitigates or adapts to climate change or reduces or protects from environmental hazard"

- Food and animal welfare standards – PART 6 WTO Agreement on Agriculture: adds ‘ that there are clear and unequivocal commitments to maintain UK food and animal welfare standards for imports under any/ all new trade deals ,’ and that these standards fully meet Government policy commitments to maintain food standards in trade deals, so as not to prejudice or jeopardise UK standards such as those of animal welfare , environmental protection or food hygiene to the disadvantage UK farmers.

Delivery or phasing out direct payments - Clause 11: while the ACF supports the Bill’s commitment to guarantee the overall annual farm budget be maintained through the life of this Parliament and that the transition in area-based reductions be made in a ‘fair way’, the ACF calls for the addition of "in 2021 introduces a payment cap of £150,000 . " Interestingly, the ACF’s proposed cap would affect fewer than 1,000 farming businesses . This can also introduce an element of flexibility into the overall budget

Climate Change: this requires real partnership between farmers and government. Government needs to lead or support research that brings clarity to issues such as how to maximize the carbon sequestration of pasture. Over time it should be possible to make carbon advisory visits to farms using tools that assess the climate impacts of individuals farms including the impacts of the inputs that they use. This approach has been used in Scotland and should be much more effective than making a lot of regulations and devising means of penalizing people for not following them.

Christopher Jones MBE

Adrian Cullis

ACF Coordinators

February 2020

 

Prepared 25th February 2020