The Agriculture Bill is not expected to complete its passage through Parliament until summer, or potentially autumn, according to NFU president Minette Batters.
Ms Batters made the remarks in the latest episode of Farmers Guardian’s Ploughing Through Brexit podcast.
The Bill has progressed through several stages already, finishing its passage through the Public Bill Committee in November last year, but has since been waiting to enter into report stage before heading to the House of Lords, where a long list of amendments are likely to be tabled.
Ms Batters said: “It is very clear now the Agriculture Bill has been delayed. It is yet to get into the House of Lords and then it has its journey back through the Commons, so I think it is going to be summer, potentially autumn before it is in.
“It has some critical amendments we feel have to be part of it – food production being on the face of the Bill being one – because at the moment you could spend the money on anything a future Secretary of State so chose.
“The standards piece, the multi-annual budget, none of that is in there, so for us, as it goes into the Lords, that is a critical journey.”
The Government has always previously insisted the Agriculture Bill would need to be passed before March 29, 2019 in order to prepare the sector for Brexit, but Defra has now confirmed the EU Withdrawal Act could provide the legal mechanism for farmers to be paid after the UK’s departure from the EU.
In December last year, the CLA’s director of external affairs warned the Bill’s progress had been put on pause to prevent it being hijacked by MPs supporting a second referendum or a permanent customs union arrangement with the EU.
Writing exclusively for FG’s Brexit hub, he said: “While the contents of the Bill perhaps would not necessarily attract the interest of Brexit-supporting urban MPs, the Government will be keen to ensure the Bill is not used as a political football to inflict further defeats and damage on the Prime Minister.”