To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the potential impact of different domestic farm support regimes in England, Scotland and Wales on farmers who operate (a) on and (b) near the borders between England and (i) Scotland and (ii) Wales.
Agriculture is a devolved responsibility. This means that now we have left the EU, each UK nation can shape new domestic agricultural policies to better suit their farmers. To support this, the UK Government and the devolved administrations have jointly developed a non-legislative administrative framework for coordinating agricultural policy: the UK Agricultural Support Framework (ASF). Defra and the other UK nations work closely together through the integrated, consensus-based and well-established governance arrangements we have set up and operate under the ASF.
The ASF enables effective co-ordination and dialogue between the administrations including on how any changes to legislation in one part of the UK may affect other parts. Through the Framework, we have established the UK Agriculture Policy Collaboration Group (PCG) and the Market Monitoring Group (MMG). The PCG provides an opportunity for officials from the four administrations to share good practice and proactively discuss and coordinate policy innovation. The PCG allows officials to consider whether new or changing policy will have an unwanted impact on another administration, and to make recommendations to Ministers and senior officials accordingly. The MMG’s role is to share information and to analyse and coordinate evidence on the impact of market developments across the UK. The MMG determines the main factors driving the development of the market and assesses the short- and long-term impacts of these factors. Evidence used by the MMG will consist of analysis of a mixture of quantitative market price and production data, market intelligence, industry representations and political lobbying, amongst other factors.
The PCG and the MMG have complementary, interactive roles in policy collaboration and operational intervention as prescribed by the ASF. There are well-established mechanisms to identify and escalate any risks to the Senior Officials Programme Board set up under the ASF and to ministers. The early and open sharing and discussion of policy proposals at the PCG and MMG meetings reduces significantly the need for escalation.
The formal engagement under the ASF is supplemented by regularly scheduled catch-up meetings between working level Defra officials and their devolved government counterparts. Policy officials meet both on a regular bilateral and ad hoc basis to discuss emerging issues (e.g. subsidy control legislation) which the PCG and MMG have oversight of.
These systems have shown their value during recent challenges such as turbulence in pig-markets in late 2021, the initial response to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 and recent drought conditions.