Agriculture Bill Third Reading, 13 May 2020


The Agriculture Bill, that was debated and voted on in the House of Commons last month, is as significant as it is complex.

Basic Payments to Farmers

To oversimplify, farmers will lose their Basic Payments (paid against how much land they own) and be paid (much less) only for ‘non-market impacts’ – flood prevention and the environment. Currently about half a farmer’s income comes from Basic Payments.

The Bill will ‘encourage’ (no details yet) farmers to reduce their costs, retire as appropriate, and facilitate new entrants.

Cheap Imports

A main concern is vulnerability to cheap imports with lower food standards (chlorinated chicken, intensive livestock): the Bill does not cover these, leaving them to individual trade agreements.

Can Britain Feed Itself?

George Eustice
George Eustice, MP

Increased food self-sufficiency also is not in the Bill.

Government prefers to rely on the trickle-down effect. As George Eustice (Secretary of State at Defra) says: “If you increase farm profitability then these things (self-sufficiency) will take care of themselves.”

Food as a Commodity and Agriculture as Separate

But there are two more fundamental flaws in the Bill. Food is still treated as a market commodity (Eustice: “the Bill has the purpose of ensuring farm profitability and growing export markets”) and not a basic human need and, secondly, agriculture remains divorced from the rest of the food system (processing, distribution, consumption).

Need for a Holistic Food Policy

Until a more holistic food policy embraces food as a human need within a whole food system, the big ‘non-market impacts’ of food, particularly food waste, obesity and food poverty, will never be properly addressed.

The Bill now passes to the House of Lords without key amendments that could have helped protect farmers, the environment and food security.

Read more about the Bill from the Soil Association.

Three High Street Bakers

Most of us in Lincolnshire, most of the time, consume uniform baked products, produced on an industrial scale by workers we will never meet. But it’s not the only choice available to us. We went to meet three highly skilled and passionate bakers, who are baking fresh each day on Lincoln High Street. It’s a […]

Market gardeners

Fringe Farming

For fruit and vegetable crops – I’m talking the 7-a-day stuff that most of us need way more of in our diets – it’s a completely different story. 

Just a few acres, with polytunnels or glasshouses require constant tending, and can employ numerous people doing skilled, interesting, rewarding, socially useful jobs. 

Fruit and vegetables don’t necessarily need much processing before they reach our plates. We want to eat them fresh – the fresher the better! 

It would make sense, then, that the most labour intensive, perishable, unprocessed foods are grown in close proximity to urban areas.

We Won Bronze!

Greater Lincolnshire has become the latest place to win a prestigious Sustainable Food Places award. The award recognises Greater Lincolnshire Food Partnership’s work to promote healthy, sustainable and local food and to tackle some of today’s greatest social challenges, from food poverty and diet-related ill-health to the disappearance of family farms and the loss of […]


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