EFRA Committee takes up the baton
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, headed-up by Neil Parish MP has delivered a report on its inquiry into DEFRA’s proposed new agricultural policy.
The MPs scrutinized over 44,000 responses to the consultation as well as oral evidence and we’re happy to see that they have taken up many of the concerns that BMPA and other organisations voiced.
What they liked
The Committe found DEFRA’s commitment to not allowing beef to enter the UK if it does not meet UK standards reassuring, but they would like a more explicit statement that it will be part of Government policy. The Committee went further and suggested that Government should improve country of origin labeling and introduce method of production labeling.
The Committe found DEFRA’s commitment to not allowing beef to enter the UK if it does not meet UK standards reassuring
They also liked the commitment to cut bureaucracy in the new land management system but acknowledge that DEFRA has a ‘huge task’ to ensure this is rolled out consistently nationwide.
Overall the Committee applauds DEFRA’s ambition and supports its aim to create a new funding model for agriculture to deliver public goods. However, there are concerns which they call for DEFRA to address before the new Agriculture Bill is tabled.
The Committee’s concerns and recommendations
A general theme throughout the report was that the consultation lacks specifics. The Committee stated that “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”. They also pointed more specifically to a lack of analysis on the impacts of the new policy and a lack of urgency in ensuring guaranteed funding after 2022.
One of the major issues the Committee saw from the evidence presented was the potential for a damaging impact on grazing livestock farms as a result of withdrawing Direct Payments. Moreover, they were concerned to hear that there has been minimal discussion between DEFRA and Treasury over funding of the new agricultural policy. They recommend that DEFRA does a thorough assessment of the impacts, commit to full, ring fenced funding for the policy and target additional support for particularly vulnerable sectors.
The Committee also highlighted the failure of the consultation to connect agricultural policy (and payments to farmers) with wider public health goals along with a failure to address falling productivity and to include animal health and welfare as a ‘public good’.
We must now wait DEFRA’s response to the Committee’s recommendations and will monitor closely how well they address the concerns that have been raised.