My family has farmed for generations and it is a real privilege to be responsible for our future agricultural policy at a time when farming is undergoing such momentous change.
Today, our landmark Agriculture Bill has reached royal assent and passed into UK law, ready to kickstart our agricultural transition period next year.
Rarely has a Bill had the benefit of so much scrutiny during its passage through Parliament – with MPs and peers debating it for over 100 hours in total.
And it is right that we debate a piece of legislation of this significance to this level. I am grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues for their thorough and passionate consideration of this Bill.
This Bill is just the beginning of our journey to deliver a once-in-a generation transformation to the way that we farm our land and produce the food that we eat.
That journey will centre around the farmers we have in this country, many of whom have been actively involved in helping us to design our future agricultural policy, through our Health and Harmony consultation in 2018 and our policy discussion around the future Environmental Land Management scheme earlier this year, not to mention from within the 68 ongoing tests and trials we have ongoing to explore how the building blocks of our future scheme will work on the ground.
Now that the Bill has passed into law, we finally have the powers we need to help reward farmers and land managers for making good environmental choices.
Together we will create cleaner, greener landscapes and reverse the decline of some of our declining species. Improvements in biodiversity are at the forefront of these policies.
We also have the powers we need to support our food producers to deliver more healthy and sustainable food at a time when our food security is of the utmost importance.
We will help them to stay competitive with grants for the equipment, technology, and infrastructure they need to improve their productivity alongside reducing their impact on the environment. The Bill will allow us to take action to improve the transparency and fairness in the supply chain from farm to fork and invest in the latest technology and research.
As well as supporting our food producers to thrive under our new agricultural system and make the most of the new opportunities available to them, we will also support them in our trade negotiations.
Earlier this month, we tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to bolster parliamentary scrutiny of free trade agreements, by introducing a new duty for the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on whether commitments in new Free Trade Agreements, relating to agricultural goods, are consistent with maintaining UK levels of statutory protection in relation to environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.
This was approved by both Houses of Parliament and will form part of the Agriculture Act 2020.
We also announced that the Trade and Agriculture Commission would be put on a statutory footing, through the Trade Bill, to place farmers at the heart of our trade policy. The Trade and Agriculture Commission will be able to feed directly into the statutory reporting process.
Later this month, we will be setting out further details on our plans for the agricultural transition period in 2021 and beyond. This will include how we will be supporting farmers to gradually adapt to these changes and to make the most of the new opportunities on offer to them.
I look forward to working closely with farmers and countryside managers on this journey over the next few years. Together we can design and implement a future agricultural policy that is tailor-made for them and will unleash their potential not just as world-leaders in food production to the highest standards, but as champions of the natural environment as well.