The long-awaited Agriculture Bill is to be published before the end of July, Defra Secretary Michael Gove has said.
He made the announcement when giving evidence to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee this morning (June 13).
Asked when the legislation would be ready, he said: “I hope the Bill will be published before the recess. That is our aim.
“We have recruited some brilliant people from across and outside the civil service to make sure we are in a position to bring forward legislation which will meet the challenges ahead.”
Mr Gove also told the MPs Defra was busy looking at how cutting direct payments would affect farmers in different sectors.
This was one of the key asks in a recent Efra Committee report on the Government’s future farming policy consultation.
It is clear the Defra Secretary is now considering a ‘small’ – below 20 per cent – reduction of all farm payments, as opposed to capping them at £100,000, a policy he originally favoured.
He told the committee he had changed his mind because of the responses to the consultation, where all but one farming group supported a more equitable reduction.
Speaking at the Cereals event in Cambridgeshire today, NFU president Minette Batters said the Government’s commitment to protecting UK environmental and welfare standards would be put to the test when the Bill was published.
“Government is incredibly divided”, she said.
“The question is, in the Bill, are standards and food safety going to receive primary legislation? That is the exam question which needs answering.
“Government talks about standards and a level of harmonisation over goods and pharmaceuticals and state aid, but there is a slightly worrying line that then you come down into agriculture and food and this is where you need flexibility.”