As we enter a new decade, farmers need details on how the UK’s post-Brexit trade and policy arrangements will affect them, says Conservative peer Anne McIntosh.
As we enter the new year, I trust that 2020 will be full of promise and lead into a decade full of hope and optimism.
The focus now has changed from the ‘will we-won’t we’ leave the European Union to what the terms and conditions of our departure will be.
While the election held on December 12 delivered a Conservative majority of 80, voters in Scotland returned a majority of seats for the Scottish Nationalist Party.
The SNP remain fervently pro-European and pro-independence, leading to tensions within the UK.
It is welcome that the Government has confirmed spending on farm support will remain the same as it is currently.
However, farmers need detail as to how that support will be spent, and we must ensure those who are receiving monies now, for example through countryside stewardship schemes such as upland farmers and tenant farmers, will continue to benefit.
How cash for environmental benefits and ‘public goods’ will be distributed is as yet unclear.
If limited to schemes such as tree planting and recreating natural flood prevention, like those which have worked so successfully in the Pickering ‘slow the flow’ pilot, only landowners would benefit, and tenant farmers would be excluded.
Our falling level of self-sufficiency in food is also deeply worrying and should be tackled urgently.
Farm organisations are rightly campaigning heavily for UK consumers to eat more home-produced foods and be less dependent on imports, which makes perfect sense both for reasons of food safety and food security.
The NFU would like the Government to establish a trade and standards commission to ensure the UK’s future trade policy does not undermine British farming’s high animal welfare and environmental protections.
It is essential that we understand what our long-term trading relationships will be and that these will be based on reciprocal rights, with our EU partners, countries like the US, Australia, New Zealand and others.
Currently seventy per cent of UK land is farmed. Uplands, with their excellent grazing, provide a long tradition of livestock production.
The Government must commit to a vibrant future for livestock farming, upland farms and for tenant farmers.
The parliamentary timetable for 2020 will be busy, as we push through the Bill giving effect to the EU Withdrawal Agreement, which enables our departure from the EU on January 31.
Parliament then embarks on the legislation needed to prepare for life after Brexit.
Of these, the Agriculture, Environment Protection, Immigration and two Trade Bills will all have huge implications for farmers.
Let us ensure Health and Harmony for all in 2020, particularly for our farmers.
Anne can be found tweeting at @AnneCMcIntosh