A new decade and a new dawn for UK agriculture

For the industry’s potential to be fully realised over the next 10 years and beyond, the Government has to make the right choices on trade, agricultural policy, labour and more.

A new decade has arrived and, with it, a chance for Great British agriculture to be truly great again. In particular, UK farmers will be able to capitalise on the growing global demand for sustainable food over the coming years.

There are also opportunities for the burden of red tape to be reduced with the move away from the Common Agricultural Policy.

But for the industry’s potential to be fully realised over the next 10 years and beyond, Government has to make the right choices on trade, agricultural policy, labour and more.

NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: “In many ways the last decade has proven tough for many farmers, but I like to think we are battle-hardened, rather than battle-weary, and ready to take on the challenges of the 2020s.

“Farming is the solution to many of the challenges facing the world. Given a fair chance to thrive, I am confident the next decade is going to be a good one for our industry.”

Brexit Impact

The deal the UK secures with the EU will dictate the rest of the country’s trade policy. The Conservatives now have to make a decision about whether or not to stay broadly aligned to EU rules and regulations.

And the Prime Minister has not given himself long to get a new agreement, promising to legislate to block any extension of the transition period which ends in December 2020.

NFU Brexit director Nick von Westenholz said: “It will be enormously challenging to reach an agreement by the end of 2020, but with hard work, clarity of purpose and goodwill on both sides, it can be done.

“Nevertheless, putting a hard deadline of just over a year for the end of these negotiations once again raises the prospect of trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms if agreement cannot be reached.

“That would mean huge tariffs being imposed from January 2021 on much of the food we sell into the EU, as well as other checks and delays which will mean increased costs for food and farming businesses.”

Climate Change

With England and Wales pledging to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and Scotland five years ahead of that, 2045, there is no doubt the farming industry will have to make some major changes over the coming years.

The NFU has also set out a roadmap to achieve net zero emissions for the sector by 2040.

This plan is centred on three pillars – improving farming’s productive efficiency, enabling more food to be produced with fewer inputs, boosting carbon storage in soils and vegetation and increasing production of renewable energy.

NFU president Minette Batters said: "British farmers aspire to be producing the most climate friendly food in the world.

“We mean what we say about delivering against our net zero aspiration and we have a sense of urgency for what is needed to achieve it.

“I am also very clear that we can deliver on our commitment to net zero while retaining, if not growing, our agricultural capacity.

“We must avoid anything which undermines UK food production and merely exports our greenhouse gas emissions to other parts of the world.”

Supply Chain Fairness

The plan to move away from direct support will make the need to tackle supply chain issues even more urgent over the next decade.

The new Agriculture Bill presented to Parliament does contain some measures to deal with these issues, such as allowing the Government to regulate contracts between farmers and first purchasers like processors and abattoirs.

Conservative Ministers have, however, so far refused to listen to industry calls for the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s (GCA) remit to be extended.

Tenant Farmers’ Association chief executive George Dunn said: “Retail and food service supply chains need strong regulation to ensure fair treatment of primary producers.

“Indications from the outgoing GCA that her role could continue on a part-time basis because of the successes she has achieved are at best premature and at worst naive.

“By including supply chain measures in the previous Agriculture Bill, the Government has recognised the need for a widening and deepening of the regulatory framework.

“We need a full-time adjudicator doing a full-time job across the whole of the retail and food service supply chains from farm to fork.”

Amended from original articles in Farmers Guardian