I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding the Agriculture Bill and its potential effect on our countryside.
Around 80% of the UK’s environmental law is shaped by the European Union and environmental standards must not be watered down as a result of Brexit. It is vital that environmental protections are enshrined in the letter of the law and that robust regulatory oversight plays a role in upholding environmental measures. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that the Agriculture Bill does not pose any serious implications for the environment and we welcome this bill as an opportunity to strengthen existing legislation.
It is important to ensure farmers are paid a fair price for their produce; while the proposal to phase out direct payments is well intentioned, it may have significant unintended consequences if the Government does not take into account the real needs in our countryside and plan accordingly. The Government must also guarantee that food imports meet British standards otherwise there is a very real possibility of other countries, with less sustainable farming practices undercutting British farmers.
To support the environment a robust regulatory framework is needed to guarantee, and improve upon, existing environmental rules and regulations. An environmentally friendly agriculture policy can also be achieved through ‘public money for public goods’, an initiative my party has long supported. Taxpayers’ money should be invested in public benefits that the market cannot provide, including clean water, healthy soils, pollinator populations, flood mitigation and countryside protection. This would ensure that a healthy environment is in everyone’s interests. However it must be made easy for farmers and land managers to help support nature, without being weighed down by unnecessary bureaucracy.
The concern that the Agriculture Bill may not vigorously uphold environmental protections is why my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will continue to fight for ambitious action on the environment and for our farmers.