To mark the first anniversary of the EU Referendum, Farmers Guardian has asked a number of key figures from the NFU to explain how things have changed for the industry over the past 12 months.
European policy adviser Tom Keen continues our week-long mini-series with an in-depth look at regulation.
Rules. Regulations. Red-tape. Three R’s farmers are all too familiar with.
While leaving the EU provides an opportunity to review the way farming is regulated, it also presents arguably the largest and most complex challenge of recent history – how we transfer the vast body of EU law affecting businesses and individuals into UK law, to ensure stability on day one of Brexit. And all in less than two years.
Agriculture is probably more influenced by EU regulation than any other economic sector. The CAP stands as testament to the special place regulation takes in farming, and replacing it while providing continuity will be a top priority.
Indeed, the NFU has set out a vision for how a Domestic Agricultural Policy could better serve the industry and the public.
Great Repeal Bill
Better regulation, however, starts with an immediate challenge: the Great Repeal Bill. Despite its title, it will as far as possible simply copy EU law into UK law. In principle, this should provide certainty for farm businesses as rules will stay the same.
However, the challenge must not be underestimated and the NFU has recently presented Government with its concerns, including ensuring proper parliamentary and industry scrutiny during the transfer, and making positive changes to laws where possible.
It is also important that our standards and regulations after March 2019 do not undermine our ability to trade on EU and global markets.
Brexit is nonetheless an opportunity for industry to put forward practical solutions for better regulation. For example, we believe that farms demonstrating good compliance with rules, or going further through voluntary measures, should be recognised and subject to fewer compliance checks.
Elsewhere, crop protection regulations based on theoretical hazard rather than actual risk are a good example of badly designed regulation, achieving little while curbing productive agriculture. We are formulating policy ideas on this and other areas to use as a base to inform our discussions with Defra and the new Secretary of State, with the aim of striking a better balance for the benefit of farm businesses and wider society.
While the process has only just got underway, every step provides an opportunity for regulation to improve and enable profitable, progressive farm businesses.