Understanding the return of the Agriculture Bill

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CLA Land Use Policy Adviser Fraser McAuley looks at the return of the long-awaited Agriculture Bill

The Agriculture Bill is back! But who knows for how long. The Supreme Court's decision that the UK Government’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal means that the Agriculture Bill was still, essentially, working its way through parliament. The inclusion in the Queens Speech means the UK Government has an intention for the bill to pass, but due to the ongoing machinations associated with Brexit, it likely it will not progress before a general election is called. Once a general election is called the Agriculture Bill will likely fall for a second time and it will have to return to square one in terms of the parliamentary process.

What does this mean for the future of the agricultural industry? The short answer is no-one is certain. A lot will depend on the colour of the next administration and the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, but the CLA lobbying objectives remain the same. The CLA has long supported a future agricultural system based on the provision of public goods alongside productivity and support through a transitionary period; the organisation will continue to meet with Defra as it develops.

The CLA will continue to lobby other key aspects of the bill to include the need for fair trading practices between primary producers and the supply chain, ensuring as wide a remit as possible is made for public goods and benefits are included in a future Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). Despite the delay of the Agriculture Bill, ELMS policy development work has been continuing at pace and the land use team is actively engaged in developing ELMS both at stakeholder meetings and by running a number of tests and trials with CLA members. Other CLA work related to the Agriculture Bill recently has included engagement with senior Defra officials on ensuring the transitionary period from the current system under CAP to a new ELMS scheme is smooth and allows farmers and land managers time to make considered business decisions. Read more about the CLA's transitional document here.

Regardless of what happens in the next few months, through Brexit and beyond, the CLA teams will be working hard on ensuring the Agriculture Bill will work to support the rural economy.

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