Farming News - Landmark Agriculture Bill to deliver a Green Brexit

Landmark Agriculture Bill to deliver a Green Brexit

Legislation to deliver a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations after nearly half a century under EU rules is being introduced into Parliament today (12 September). 
The Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for “public goods”, such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding.
This will replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments, which is ineffective and pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. These payments are skewed towards the largest landowners and are not linked to any specific public benefits. The top 10% of recipients currently receive almost 50% of total payments, while the bottom 20% receive just 2%.
In its place, a new Environmental Land Management system will start from next year. The government will work together with farmers to design, develop and trial the new approach. Under the new system, farmers and land managers who provide the greatest environmental benefits will secure the largest rewards, laying the foundations for a Green Brexit.
The Bill will also be underpinned by measures to increase productivity and invest in R&D.
For example, there will be funding available for farmers to come together to develop and get the research projects that they want and need, whether that be on soil health or sustainable livestock farming . This will lead to practical gains for farmers that help them become more profitable and reduce their environmental footprint.
The government will also be able to make payments during the seven year transition period for famers to invest in new technologies and methods that boost productivity.
 Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
 “The introduction of the Agriculture Bill is an historic moment as we leave the EU and move towards a brighter future for farming.
 “After nearly 50 years of being tied to burdensome and outdated EU rules, we have an opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit.
 “This Bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations.
 “Critically, we will also provide the smooth and gradual transition that farmers and land managers need to plan ahead.”
Farmers will be supported over a seven year transition period as we as leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
For 2019, Direct Payments will be made on the same basis as now, subject to simplifications where possible. Direct Payments for 2020 will also be made in much the same way as now. Simplifications will be made as soon as possible, subject to the terms of the overall Brexit implementation period. There will then be an agricultural transition period in England between 2021 and 2027 as payments are gradually phased out.
During consultation, there was a widespread support for applying reductions to Direct Payments more widely. Most farmers will therefore see some reduction to their payments during the transition, although those who receive the highest payments will see bigger reductions initially. This will free up funds to invest in public goods.
To help new entrants get into the sector and give farmers flexibility to plan for the future, Direct Payments during the agricultural transition period up until 2027 will be “delinked” from the requirement to farm the land.
These payments, which may be calculated according to money received in previous years, can be used by farmers to invest in their business, diversify their activities or else retire from farming and give way for new people to enter.
The Bill also sets out how the government will strengthen transparency in the supply chain to help farmers get a better deal in the marketplace.
By collecting data from across the supply chain, the government will help food producers strengthen their negotiating position at the farm gate and seek a fairer return.
The introduction of the Agriculture Bill now means that all the necessary measures will be in place for the start of the agricultural transition in 2021, delivering a smooth transition to the new domestic policy.

Timeline for the phasing out of Direct Payments and introduction of the new system:


CAP and CAP legacy

Future arrangements

Transitional Support


Direct Paymentscontinue on the same basis as now with minor simplifications


Countryside Stewardship (CS)agreements continue to be signed and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements extended as required

Tests and trials for Environmental Land Management (ELM)




Direct Paymentscontinue with further simplifications, where possible


CS agreements continue to be signed and HLSagreements extended as required

Tests and trials for ELM


Higher animal welfarestandard defined, industry leadership role for animal health and welfareagreed



First year of progressive reductions to Direct Payments


CS agreements continue to be signed but number becomes dependent on ELM. HLS agreements extended as required

First pilots and ongoing tests and trials for ELM

Welfare pilots begin and animal healthinterventions agreed with industry

UK Shared Prosperity Fund starts

Targeted investment inR&D and innovation

Transitional supportschemes to build farm capability to manage risk, improve productivity and deliver public goods will be offered, including:

·         Enabling on-farm investment in equipment and technology to deliver public goods

·         Supporting new entrants to get into farming   

·         Measures to improve resilience - prevention of plant pests and diseases

Initiatives to support new relationship between government and land managers



Progressive reductions to Direct Payments continue

Final CS agreements start (number dependent on ELM) and HLSagreements extended as required

ELM pilots, tests and trials.

Welfare pilots continue and animal healthinterventions on offer

Targeted investment inR&D and innovation



ELM fully up and running

Measures to promote animal health and welfarefully up and running

Targeted investment inR&D and innovation (up to 2029)




End of 7 year transition period (last year Direct Payments)




No Direct Payments



The Bill in more detail

The Agriculture Bill sets the framework for Defra’s future Environmental Land Management Policy, moving towards a system where public money is spent on public goods, in particular protecting and enhancing our environment. This will be the centrepiece of the Government’s new approach to farm payments. Public goods which the government will pay for include:  

  • Improving air and water quality and soil health – e.g. reducing ammonia emissions or soil erosion 
  • Providing habitats for wildlife – e.g. maintaining hedgerows, nectar plots for pollinators or food sources for farmland birds
  • Reducing flood risk – e.g. planting trees and hedges
  • Preventing climate change – e.g. through peatland restoration to protect the existing carbon store and reduce emissions of CO2e
  • Improving public access to our countryside – e.g. replacing access structures such as gates
  • Protecting iconic features of our countryside – e.g. maintaining drystone walks or other historic features
  • The agriculture sector currently imposes costs on the environment. The annual external cost to farmers from soil erosion and compaction from agriculture was estimated at £305m in 2010 for England and Wales (Defra analysis in £2017 prices using figures from Defra Science Project (2018) / total costs of soil degradation in England and Wales (SP1606)).
  • There are already examples where this ambitious environmental focus for farmers is already working, such as the ‘Exmoor Ambition’ – a post-Brexit plan for upland hill farming in the region, developed by the Exmoor Hill Farming Network and Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • Agriculture policy is devolved, and so the Agriculture Bill sets out primary legislation mostly for England.  Following close engagement with the devolved administrations the Bill will provide powers for Welsh Government Ministers to pursue their own reforms, and extend provisions to Northern Ireland, until primary legislation is taken through their own legislatures. The Scottish Government is not taking powers in the Bill. 
  • There will be some UK-wide clauses in the Bill for policies reserved to the UK government.  The UK government is continuing discussions with the devolved administrations to find common approaches for agriculture that work for all of the UK where legislation is not required.