Post-Brexit Agriculture Bill will not provide “long-term food security” says farming network chairman

Euro MP Alex Mayor with Eltisley farmer Martin Lines

Euro MP Alex Mayor with Eltisley farmer Martin Lines - Credit: Archant

Eltisley farmer Martin Lines has branded the government’s post-Brexit Agriculture Bill as “all carrot and no stick”.

Mr Lines, who is also chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, is calling on the government to address environmental issues caused by intensive farming.

“It is the Secretary of State’s duty to establish an independent regulator before it’s too late,” said Mr Lines who met with Euro MP Alex Mayer on Friday.

Adding: “We can only guarantee long-term food security by protecting and managing the natural assets which enable food production. If the Government does not amend the Bill to include baseline standards and put a stop to the environmental degradation caused by intensive farming - Cambridgeshire farmers will be in danger of losing their livelihoods.”

The Government proposal is to reward responsible farmers who act as custodians of the land by improving wildlife habitats or repairing the soil. Mrs Mayer is concerned, however, that crucially there are no penalties for those who fail to meet basic environmental levels.

She says there is not a single clause in the proposed new Agriculture Bill to stop an unscrupulous farmer from polluting indiscriminately.

“What happens on the farm matters to us all,” she said.

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“It is good to reward those who improve the soil, use fewer pesticides and have better animal welfare practices - but the government needs to be very clear - there are certain basic standards we expect too. Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been happy to adopt the guise of an ‘eco-warrior’ when it suits him. But if he fails to put protections in British law, this will be shown to be nothing but a facade.”

After Brexit (and any transition phase) UK agriculture will be operating outside of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This means that a new domestic agriculture policy is needed as the CAP currently provides almost £4 billion of support annually to farmers across the UK as well as providing market safety nets.

Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary has said the new Bill would provide a “brighter future” for farming after nearly 50 years of being tied to burdensome and outdated EU rules.”