REACTION TO THE AGRICULTURE BILL RELAUNCH

RURAL SOLUTIONS: COMING OF AGE

REACTION TO THE AGRICULTURE BILL RELAUNCH

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Farm minister, George Eustice announced yesterday, that the new government is to press ahead with a new Agricultural Policy.

We welcome this news and the fact that a new agriculture Bill is now firmly on the government’s agenda.

The content and direction of travel is undoubtedly based upon that set out by Michael Gove in his ‘Health and Harmony’ Green paper of February 2018 but there is new emphasis which is encouraging for all those involved in rural business.

Whilst the environment is fundamental to the new approach a core theme in the bill is in enabling the rural sector to be more flexible. By ultimately delinking payments from the requirement to farm, farmers/landowners will be encouraged through payments, to plan for their future by investing in new technology, diversification or retirement.

For those eager to see the rural sector stand on its own two feet and deliver product and experiences that people actually want to buy, the future for now, looks challenging but positive. The transition period is going to be seven years which gives landowners a sensible timescale to reassess their options and open their minds to the great opportunities our countryside could bring.

The inevitable changes for the rural sector arising from Brexit, the Government’s Agriculture Bill and increasing public focus on environmental issues will accelerate a new approach to land use and rural business. The changes will come from need and opportunity. Need arising from the imperative to replace income lost from the removal of Direct Payments and opportunity from the ability to make land use a more attractive and flexible investment proposition.

No longer rewarded by the quantity of land held in agricultural production, farmers and landowners can start to look at a far wider range of products that might include leisure, experience and adventure.

Moreover, the climate change agenda and the importance of rural Britain, in terms of contributing to zero net gain ambitions is a huge opportunity and one that will attract investment.

All rural Britain has some form of diversification opportunity, whether it’s selling environmental outputs to Government, tractor rides, bird seed or ice cream to children, activities, experiences or overnight stays to groups and families. The key will be to focus on what business will work with what market. Farming and food production will always be central to the rural economy, but this brave new world will challenge the sector to genuinely deliver products and services that make profits. At last, there is opportunity to do good business. Good business but, crucially, in a way that delvers a positive environmental legacy for future generations.
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