The Government has introduced its Agriculture Bill, offering incentives for farmers and laying the groundwork for innovative production methods and environmental protection.
The legislation replaces the current subsidy system of Direct Payments which pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed.
Instead, the new measures will “provide a better future” for British agriculture, maximising the potential of the land for food production and for delivering public goods.
The Bill sets out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded with public money for “public goods” – such as better air and water quality, higher animal welfare standards, improved access to the countryside or measures to reduce flooding.
It also sees Britain moving away from the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy and towards “a fairer system”.
“Our landmark Agriculture Bill will transform British farming, enabling a balance between food production and the environment which will safeguard our countryside and farming communities for the future,” said Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers.
“This is one of the most important environmental reforms for many years, rewarding farmers for the work they do to safeguard our environment and helping us meet crucial goals on climate change and protecting nature and biodiversity.”
Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “It is encouraging to see that the Agriculture Bill now recognises that food production and caring for the environment go hand-in-hand. Farmers are rightly proud of their environmental efforts and it is crucial this new policy recognises and rewards the environmental benefits they deliver, both now and in the future.
“Alongside this, the government’s commitment to invest in supporting farmers to improve productivity will be critical, given the delivery of sustainable and climate-friendly food systems cannot be achieved in the absence of viable and profitable farm businesses.
“A commitment to regularly report on food security to Parliament is reassuring but this must be more than simply a box-ticking exercise. It is vital that British farming continues to contribute a significant proportion of our nation’s food needs and that we set the ambition of growing more, selling more and exporting more British food.”
she added: “The commitment to long-term future budget has addressed a significant concern of ours and will provide much needed clarity for farmers.
“We recognise that the way farmers are supported will change and the announcement to regularly report, evaluate and monitor how the schemes will operate will go some way to ensuring that any money taken from farmers as part of the phase out of the Direct Payments (BPS) will stay within farming.
“With our future relationship with the EU, our largest export market for agri-food products, still unclear, the government must ensure farmers remain sufficiently supported to weather any economic storms ahead.”
Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “We welcome the commitment from government to keep our food security under review. It must assess both domestic production as well as vital ingredients and goods from overseas.
“We are committed too to reducing our own environmental impacts and to working with others to increase resource efficiency and help protect natural capital across the supply chain.”