Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:57 pm on 13th February 2020.

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Vicki Hird:

We were very pleased to see some of the changes in the Agriculture Bill. Overall, we are very positive about the public money for public goods approach and the financial support being listed. We were very pleased to see soil being included in that. We would like to see a stronger reference to agroecological whole-farm systems, because we think that is the way to ensure that you get the in-field changes, as well as the edge of field, wildlife and other nature outcomes that you see. We need the whole of the UK farming system to go towards an agroecological approach in whatever way they can. Those steps should be available through financial support.

We would also like to see, as Nick said, a lot of these things as duties, rather than powers. It seems incredible how much effort—I know, because I have been involved—DEFRA has put into the environmental land management scheme, when it could stop it all in a couple of years and pay a smaller amount of money and not follow through. As MPs, you should have that accountability for you on delivering ELMS.

Finally, I agree with Diana on the protection for workers. We are also pleased with clause 27, which concerns fair dealing. It has been enhanced to really protect farmers. We are grateful to DEFRA for making those changes and to George Eustice, who we welcome as our new Secretary of State. We would like to see that as a duty, because it is so important. It is absolutely vital that we get the protection for farmers in the supply chain. They do have that from retailers, but most farmers do not sell direct to retailers. They need good codes of conduct developed with the industry for every sector, probably starting with dairy.