23 February 2019

King West

The Agriculture Bill 2018

The likelihood remains that, in little over a month, Brexit will take place in one form or another and we will soon be breaking free from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that has dictated our farming policies since accession to the European Economic Council nearly half a century ago. In those pre-CAP days, the UK’s farming policy was essentially based on the principles of food security and farming support, as laid out under the post-war Agriculture Act of 1947.

In preparation for Brexit, the Government published its Agriculture Bill on 12th September 2018. As is often the way, it is essentially a consultation exercise as it passes slowly through the parliamentary process. The Bill is initially lacking detail, ahead of what is intended to be the UK’s new, post-CAP Agriculture Act. Whilst, at present, considerably less “monumental” than its illustrious ancestors, it does provide a few pointers as to how the Government intends to build on the concept of supporting farmers and landowners through payments linked to the provision of “Public Goods”.

Rather than offering insight into how the new rules will work in practice, the Bill concentrates on the mechanisms by which the Government can change the rules of engagement with farming, published alongside other documents which collectively set out the direction of policy and how it will be implemented.

Key provisions of the Agriculture Bill, as published, are:

  • The phasing out of direct payments between 2021 and 2028. This will free up funding for reinvestment into the delivery of Public Goods, some of which will be delivered under a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).
  • The expectation that farmers will develop greater resilience over the agricultural transition period. 
  • Public support for increasing productivity, improving risk management, research and development, collaboration and raising animal welfare standards.

In terms of timeline, it appears that the current arrangements will remain in place until December 2020. The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will continue for the 2019/20 payment years, subject to possible changes to administration and other requirements, and the Rural Development (RDPE) funding will remain, along with the Agri-Environment Schemes and Productivity Programmes.

The Bill, thus far, leaves us with a number of unanswered questions. There has been no indication as to the anticipated level of funding for farming. There is no clarity as to how direct payments will be reduced to zero between 2021 and 2028. There is also no mention of policy regarding migrant workers, food standards or environmental protection.

Many of these omissions will likely be clarified during the various readings of the Bill and as a result of lobbying from industry organisations. If successful, it is hoped that, by the time the Bill is enacted, it may emerge as another seminal moment for British farming and, indeed, for forestry, tourism and the countryside as a whole.

If you require advice or support, please contact James Douglas of King West on 01858 411535 or by emailing



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