Britain’s minister for environment Theresa Villiers has said that parliament will during the month receive a farming bill that is meant to guide the UK’s agricultural sector following plans to exit the European Union.
During the yearly Oxford Farming Conference, Villiers said the government would be focused on funding agricultural activities that directly impact the public including improvement of animal welfare as well as addressing climate change.
“We have the potential to create a virtuous circle between agriculture, tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity, and securing investment in our rural economy,” Villiers said.
In the conference, there was also the National Farmers Union president Minette Batters. He hailed Britain’s decision to exit the EU and described it as the “the greatest reset of agricultural policy since the 1940s”.
Brexit is set to take place by the end of January. Britain had been operating under the EU’s agricultural regulations, and now for the first time in decades, it would be operating under its own set of guidelines.
The incoming changes would be effected over seven years in England to allow for adequate adjustments on the part of the farmers and other stakeholders. During the period of transition, all payments not linked to the offering of public benefits would be stopped.
The current farm policy for the EU provides for farmers to receive public funds amounting to about 3 billion pounds each year. A section of the funds goes towards environmental impact programs and some annual payouts based on farmland ownership — the payments carter for up to 70% income for some farmers.
But farming policies may differ in regions with devolved systems of governance such as Wales and Scotland.
The future of the UK farmers also depends on the trade deals to come between the UK and the EU, as well as other key players such as the United States, the NFU president said during the conference.
Stakeholders have been raising concerns over allowing imports that could flaunt the current EU farming regulations.
For instance, in the US, certain livestock growing hormones are used but have been banned in the EU. But if the Brexit sails through, such restrictions could be abolished to pave the way for trade deals with other countries.
But Villiers was quick to reiterate that imports from such countries would only be permitted into the region if the set standards are met.