Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:25 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Graeme Willis:

When I heard about this in the original Agriculture Bill, I was concerned that no constraints were placed on that money. I was not clear about the rationale for that. If the rationale is for new entrants, there is an issue if that is only done through land prices falling. I am not convinced that we can guarantee that when a farm is sold, a new entrant will get that farm. There is no control over that, so it seems too broadbrush. It also seems somewhat a hostage to fortune because large amounts of public money being paid out for what is not a clear set of purposes could play very badly with the public; other people have raised that concern. If that were tied to some investment into the farm, there is an element of advantage there to having a lump sum to invest that could meet the other purposes to improve the farm’s environmental performance and productivity. Also, it could be good if it were tied in some shape or form to supporting new entrants.

Earlier, there was a mention of share farming—some form of succession where there is no son or daughter to pass the farm on to, some mechanism where that was locked in to ensure that a new entrant could get on to a farmstead and actually learn. You mentioned skills: they could learn from the skills of the farmer on that farm and not lose the knowledge of the land, the aspect, the farming and the culture of that farm, and pass that on to a new, younger or older person with a different set of skills. That would be really interesting.

I see it as too broadbrush and not clear at the moment, and I have concerns. I understand that that will be consulted on, but I am not sure whether that is clear from the Bill as it stands, or whether that can be clarified.