Dairy UK responds to Agriculture Bill

The new Agriculture Bill was presented to Parliament last week. Here, Dairy UK chair Paul Vernon and chair of the Farmers Forum Arthur Fearnall give their responses to the bill.

Vernon, said the bill gave Defra “new and wide ranging powers to reshape the support given to agriculture and develop new support schemes for farmers,” but that he was concerned about the bill’s lack of emphasis on financial support to farmers for productivity measures adding, “The profitability and innovation of dairy farms must go hand in hand with providing public goods, so that we can remain competitive post-Brexit.”

One element of the bill allows the Secretary of State to regulate contracts in agriculture, which has the potential of providing greater flexibility than is currently allowed under the Common Market Organisation Regulation (CMO).

Vernon said, “That being the case, it is difficult to understand why Defra has signalled that they will be bringing forward proposals for the regulation of raw milk contracts under the CMO. Our analysis of the requirements of the CMO is that they are fundamentally incompatible with the need of the dairy sector to compete in the volatile market place we can expect post-Brexit. So our first ask is that Defra delay the regulation of contracts in the dairy sector until the powers of the Agriculture Bill are in place, so we can tailor regulation to the needs of the British dairy sector and there is a full and wide-ranging consultation with all players in the dairy supply chain.

“There is clearly a need for close dialogue between Defra and the dairy industry to realise the opportunities created by the Bill. We look forward to working with Defra throughout that process.”

Arthur Fearnall, chair of Dairy UK’s Farmers’ Forum added, “We look forward to receiving greater detail on the measures announced within the Bill in due course, and the Dairy UK Farmers Forum will take a constructive role in the dialogue with Defra through this process. We want to ensure that dairy farmer’s views and needs are fully reflected in order to secure a positive future for dairy farming post-Brexit.”

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