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Jeremy's Blog 15th January 2021: A Time for Change

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 14th January 2021.

Meetings this week have shown both the Government’s sense of urgency to drive change for English agriculture and the conflicts in doing that.

While England’s Agricultural Transition Plan runs to 2027, its real detail is for the period that the Government sees it has until the next election: what it has not done by then might then not be done. The present funding is only assured to 2024. With the Agriculture Act fresh on the statute book and the agreement with the EU done, policies and schemes are now evolving apace towards implementation, exposing the reality of choices to be made. DEFRA will soon seek interest in the first ELM Pilot and work on productivity issues continues.

England is consulting on revising inherited EU law to allow gene editing as an acceleration of the potential of natural breeding for environmental and productivity benefits. With the Government’s commitment to science, the consultation is about implementation, not the principle. Perhaps an early test of the divergence provisions of the EU agreement, it also symbolises the Government’s embrace of technology for the future economy.

The new power of domestic scrutiny of policy makes animal welfare a major issue. A consultation by England and Wales, with proposals including barring livestock movements below 5oC, could make some aspects of livestock farming harder. The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway would support both the public goods of welfare and the productivity benefits of health. With similar contention, there is a consultation across the UK on pesticides.

Climate change measures will soon bear heavily on rural land management and use. Agriculture produces around 8 per cent of the UK’s emissions and peatland (upland and lowland) 4 per cent. We are soon to have the England Tree Strategy, the England Peatland Strategy and a Heat and Buildings Strategy. Scotland intends to restore some 250,000 ha of peatland to reduce emissions. Forestry, energy crops, soils, resource efficiency are all proposed in the mix of answers.

Clients and members will need to form views on how to navigate these waters with their new incentives and pressures. The focus for the future will be on profitability and resilience (bouncing back better, rather than enduring) needed to be competitive.

As part of the CAAV’s support for members, we are pleased that the CAAV’s new website, developed over the autumn, is now live, future proofing this resource with its briefing and access to publications for the years of change to come.

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