On 12th September, a new Agriculture Bill was introduced into Parliament. This Briefing Note is written to provide information about some of the provisions contained in the Bill of relevance to HTA members. The full text is available by clicking here. Implications for devolved nations can be read here.
Part 1 New Financial Assistance Powers:
The Bill will allow the Secretary of State to give financial assistance for a number of purposes. These include:
- Managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment, or maintains, restores or enhances cultural or natural heritage;
- Supporting public access;
- Mitigating or adapting to climate change;
- Preventing, reducing or protecting from environmental hazards;
- Protecting or improving the health of plants;
- For the purpose of starting, or improving the productivity of, an agricultural, horticultural or forestry activity.
Financial assistance can be given by way of grant, loan, guarantee or in any other form. The Bill also lays down that the Secretary of State may make Regulations regarding the conditions under which financial assistance can be given, publication of information about recipients, provisions for checking, enforcing and monitoring financial assistance, including provisions for recovery of monies paid.
At this stage it is not clear what form the financial assistance will take or how it will be administered, nor do we know any time frames for this, however the HTA will work on members' behalf to ensure ornamental horticulture is included in access to financial assistance and clarify any rules and regulations as they are published.
Part 2 Financial Support After Exiting the EU:
The Bill makes provision for phasing out direct payments during the “agricultural transition period” of 7 years starting with 2021.
The Bill also allows the Secretary of State to introduce regulations modifying retained EU legislation relating to payments to farmers and others, including through support for rural development. This is a direct result of the UK leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-Brexit.
Part 3 Collection and Sharing of Data:
The Bill will allow the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring those in, or closely connected with, an “agri-food supply chain” (a supply chain providing individuals with items of food or drink for personal consumption, produced using agricultural produce) to provide information about their activities related to the supply chain.
As currently drafted, this would not appear to include ornamentals, however the Bill does allow the Secretary of State to add sectors.
Part 4 Intervention in Agricultural Markets:
The Bill will allow the Secretary of State to publish a declaration of exceptional market conditions causing severe disturbance, or the threat of severe disturbance, in an agricultural market. Following such a declaration the Secretary of State may give financial assistance to producers.
Part 5 Marketing Standards:
The Bill will allow the Secretary of State to make provisions about standards to which products in certain sectors must conform. The sectors listed include “Live Plants”. We will publish further advise as the bill progresses as to what this means for our members.
Part 6 Producer Organisations and Fairness in the Supply Chain:
An organisation of producers meeting certain conditions can apply to the Secretary of State for recognition as a producer organisation.
This section of the Bill also includes provisions allowing the Secretary of State to make regulations to promote fair contractual dealing by the first purchasers of certain agricultural products. The schedule of those products for both producer organisations and fair trading includes “other plants”, so there may well be implications for producers of ornamental crops.
Part 7 WTO Agreement on Agriculture:
The Bill allows the Secretary of State to make regulations to secure compliance of the United Kingdom with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.
Part 8 Wales and Northern Ireland:
Schedules 3 and 4 make similar provisions in Wales and Northern Ireland (apart from new financial assistance – Part 1, which is not included for Northern Ireland).