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Agriculture Bill

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

7. I remind members of my entry in the register of members’ interests: I am a farmer.

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to introduce an agriculture bill. (S5O-03100)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

In a recent parliamentary debate on future rural policy and support, I announced that we would introduce a rural support bill in this parliamentary session. That bill will enable us to amend retained European Union law to deliver on the proposals for the period up to 2024, as set out in our “Stability and Simplicity: proposals for a rural funding transition period” consultation document. Consideration is currently being given to the timetable and I will, of course, advise Parliament of it once it has been agreed.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

As the cabinet secretary knows, an agriculture bill is essential to allow the Scottish Government to continue to make support payments to our farmers post-Brexit. Last year’s farm business income figures showed that more than 60 per cent of farms were making a loss, with the average farm business making a loss of £7,400, without receiving additional support.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Could you come to your question, please?

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

More worrying, sheep farmers in less favoured areas were making a loss of £27,400. Those figures show how vital support payments are.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Mr Chapman, could you come to your question?

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

With that in mind, can the cabinet secretary tell me when an agriculture bill will be introduced in this Parliament?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We will introduce an agriculture bill in due course, as necessary. Let me stress one simple point: the bill will cause no difficulty with, or impediment to, the continued payment of moneys that are due to farmers and crofters. Maintaining that process is a top priority for me and commands a great deal of my time—rightly so. The money is due to farmers and crofters, and I give an absolute assurance today—as I have done repeatedly—that the agriculture bill will simply be a mechanism that will allow us to continue to make those payments. The bill will be introduced in time to enable that to happen.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions. I did not reach question 8, so I apologise to Clare Adamson.