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Government must put food at heart of new Agriculture Bill

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NFU President Minette Batters says: “The NFU alongside, the whole food supply chain, has been absolutely clear about the essential ingredients for a progressive, profitable, and sustainable food and farming sector post Brexit. These include comprehensive measures to improve the environment and productivity and tackle volatility alongside free and frictionless trade and access to a competent and reliable workforce. The new Agriculture Bill, as described in the announcement falls short of our aspirations in these regards.

“It is vital that in the future British farmers can continue to meet the food needs of a growing population. A future agricultural policy that ignores food production will be damaging for farmers and the public alike. The public demand and deserve safe, high-quality, traceable affordable food, whatever their income. And moreover, they want British farms to supply that food.

“Farmers across the UK will be very concerned that the Bill provides only a short-term commitment to improve their competitiveness; we cannot future-proof farming businesses based on the ‘time-limited’ initiatives outlined in this announcement.

“Along with other farmers I will also be looking to the Bill to set out means to address the clear market failure in food chain that means farmers are not rewarded fairly for the risk and investment they make. British farmers will need to compete with farmers all over the world, nearly all of whom are supported financially to produce food. If British farmers are to underpin the nation’s food security, then they will need the right financial and policy framework to do so in a competitive and volatile global marketplace.

“We will look closely at the Government’s proposals for a seven year transition period, during which direct payments will be phased-out, to ensure we’re satisfied that this will be sufficient. In particular, the Bill must provide Government with the powers to pause the process if it is proving unmanageable for farmers, and if our domestic food supply and food security are under threat.

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