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Jeremy's Blog 5th February 2021: Regulatory Baseline

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 4th February 2021.

With the current focus on the development of schemes and grants for public goods and productivity, it can be easy to overlook another key component of the new policies. This is the move to a “regulatory baseline” – simply put, what the law will require of farmers as it requires standards from others. Whether under England’s ELM, the Welsh Sustainable Farming Scheme, the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway or other schemes, public money would only be spent to achieve standards higher than those required by that baseline of law.

This approach will become clearer as cross compliance recedes and the domestic policy making responds to environmental issues. Much of cross compliance is already required by law; governments will review what is not. Outside the EU and the CAP, England and Scotland have re-written EU law to make systems of inspection and penalties more proportionate; Wales and Northern Ireland are set to follow. England at least is then looking to build on that with a civil penalties code to support the legal standards.

Those standards expected of all farming businesses can only be expected to rise. A current example of that arises from concern over water pollution and air quality:

  • England’s Agricultural Transition Plan both points to a consultation soon on requiring greater storage capacity and, ahead of that, proposes a slurry storage and equipment grant investment scheme from autumn 2022 for work that gives at least 6 months storage with impermeable covering. Low emission spreaders are to be a legal requirement by 2025.
  • Scotland is now consulting on standards for silage and slurry storage.
  • Wales, reporting three agricultural pollution incidents a week, has introduced new legislation, bringing all Wales into one NVZ for 2024, expressly as a new baseline requiring farms to have slurry storage capacity sufficient to handle what will be produced between 1st October and 1st March (1st April for pigs and poultry).

With the scale of the cost of meeting these requirements for many livestock farms to remain as such, it seems sensible to look ahead now and plan how best to handle this, taking advantage of grant schemes where useful, looking at practical and business answers from farming practices and the separation of clean water, to ensuring that construction can be done cost effectively.

Equivalent pressures for new legal standards seem likely to become evident on such matters as pesticides and animal welfare.

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