New rules to protect the Amazon and other rainforests are set to hit UK farmers with added costs and paperwork.
As part of the requirements, large livestock feed companies using soy and palm oil will be obliged to carry out and publish due diligence activities, which ensure the commodities have been produced ‘in accordance with local laws’.
Failure to comply with these requirements will attract fines and other civil sanctions.
Ministers hope the rules, the framework of which are now part of the Environment Bill, will stop forest being illegally converted into agricultural land.
But the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) has warned there is a risk that monitoring will add cost into the supply chain, potentially affecting feed prices for the end user.
Industry bodies are also concerned that retailers and processors will be forced to ask for due diligence reports from suppliers who buy feed containing soy and palm oil.
Currently, just 6 per cent of soy imports to the UK carry a risk of deforestation.
Ed Barker, head of policy and external affairs at AIC, said: “Farmers may somehow have to end up demonstrating due diligence reporting because their buyer is demanding they provide it.
“It may be something very simple, such as showing feed supply dates and that feed comes from a company on the register which has a due diligence plan, but we do not yet know. There is a lot to be worked out, such as which businesses, supply, retail or farmers, in a supply chain are in scope.
“We welcome the plans in principle, because anything which stamps out illegality at the source is a good thing.
“It is just the way in which it could be implemented could make it a burdensome box ticking exercise which does not achieve anything.”
Defra is also believed to be including products with ‘embedded’ soy and palm oil in the scope of the rules, such as poultry imported from the Netherlands or pork from Spain, where, currently, there are no due diligence requirements in place – though discussions are underway in the EU Commission.
UK industry bodies have welcomed this, to avoid any potential competitiveness issues, but the monitoring and enforcement costs associated with the rules are expected to be huge.
Farmers Guardian understands the Government is intending to set up a new regulatory body to manage compliance, though it is not yet clear whether the money for this will come from the Defra budget.
Secondary legislation setting out the detail of the new rules will be published shortly after COP26 in November.