Funding, regulation, trade and marketing were high on the agenda at a recent Country Land Association (CLA) working group. The event, which was attended by Anglia Rural Consultants member, Jamie Gwatkin, provided a forum to share current Government thinking, test CLA thinking and explore members’ priorities.
It was noted that the Conservative Party manifesto contained a commitment of a £3.2 billion budget to be available for Agriculture until 2022, the end of the next parliamentary term, rather than 2020 as pledged by the Treasury. This will give some more certainty to Farmers in the short term.
All lobbying parties are behind the vision that public funding must benefit the public good and many agree that farmers need financial support to deliver benefits to the environment.
Key elements of the proposed CLA policy are:
Regulation: the Great Reform Bill will mean that change is going to be gradual as European legislation changes to UK law and is then modified
Trade: agriculture needs a bespoke Free Trade Agreement. It was commonly agreed that the UK must not lower food standards. Tariff barriers are obviously a concern, although some UK businesses are already setting up trade deals with America.
Labour: the industry has a season workers’ scheme but the Government needs to demonstrate commitment
Support: CLA wants to adopt a voluntary Land Management Contract, whereby government pays farmers for delivering land management activities for environmental and the public good
Marketing: Agriculture needs to do more to demonstrate how farming activities benefits the public
Split of the “Pot”: the discussion considered the idea that 15% of funding should be directed towards innovation, research, technology and business knowledge transfer; 75% to Direct Support/Agri-environmental, which will have a low entry payment and additional top-ups via the Land Management Contract. The remaining 10% should fund areas including grants, business mentoring, heritage protection and marketing, highlighted above
The CLA believes that the Government has the ability to secure an agreement with Europe by March 2019. In their view, discussions behind the scenes are progressing well.