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Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:02 pm, 3rd February 2020

I am sorry to hear that Labour wants to talk down British farming. The reality is that well-managed livestock production can provide important environmental benefits, including for biodiversity. I think we need a debate on livestock farming that reflects the facts, which include the fact that our livestock farmers are some of the most carbon-friendly in the world in the way they produce their products.

We know how vital it is to protect soil health. Soil is clearly one of our most precious national assets, and we have added it to the list of purposes underlying the schemes that we can pay for under the Bill. This is a direct response to the views expressed in this House about the previous version of the Bill. A further addition is to include in clause 1 the conservation of native breeds and plants, so that the species that sustained our ancestors are kept safe for future generations. Work is already well under way to prepare and implement these crucial reforms. Our environmental land management scheme is the cornerstone of our new agriculture policy. Extensive tests and trials are under way in different parts of the country. We will launch the ELM national pilot in England in late 2021, and the scheme will launch fully in 2024.

ELM will provide a powerful driver towards meeting the goal set out in our 25-year environment plan, which is to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. Getting ELM right is crucial for meeting our commitment to net-zero carbon emissions, and to meet the tough targets set out in our forthcoming Environment Bill. I emphasise that our goal is to design ELM schemes that work for farmers and land managers, and in which a very wide range of farmers and land managers can take part.