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Crucial Agriculture Updates including Birds, Brexit and Broadband 

Posted by Jamie Brown on 16th August 2019

A potential no-deal Brexit ups the sustainability debate and government support promise

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has published a report ‘Our Future in the Land’ designed to help shape a vision of a more sustainable future.

Its recommendations highlight two key points:

A no-deal Brexit could potentially have a massive impact on our import and export status quo, creating restrictions, delays, price increases, and supply chain disruption.

The government is making all the right noises in terms of plugging income gaps for farmers but the disruption to income is widely feared in the farming community.

Secondly as we near our new stand-alone position post-Brexit, British farmers are being urged to embrace and become heavily involved in this new need for greater UK self- reliance and sustainability on our own foodstuffs. The report puts the onus firmly on the farming community to innovate and create working solutions to cater to the greater need to import less and cater to our own population going forward.  The report emphasises the support that will be made available for such sustainability developments.

Out of the fifteen recommendations of relevance to the agricultural industry, those on sustainability include:

  • A transition plan towards “sustainable farming” examples include integrated pest management and organic farming.
  • Encouraging technological advances both led by and influenced by farmers. The suggestion is for funding resources to move away from agri-tech businesses and research institutes. Instead, there should be a concerted drive to recognise and reward innovation by farmers and, where research is intended to be undertaken, for farmers to be stakeholders in the funding review process and advise what research would be relevant to the industry.

The report also highlights the growing trends towards healthier eating and vegetarianism and the need for the agricultural industry to embrace and capitalise on these major consumption changes if they are to maintain revenue streams.


Successful RPA Payments

On the 4 July 2019 the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) published their annual report and accounts for 2018 to 2019 and good news for the agricultural industry with improved payments and speed of payments:

  • Basic Payment Scheme achieving best payment fulfillment status since its introduction,
  • Taking over responsibility for delivery of Countryside and Environmental Stewardship schemes from Natural England from 1 October 2018.
  • Environmental scheme advance payments issued to more than 95% of customers

In addition to this much-needed performance improvement in payments, it has been announced that over £75 million is to be invested into the delivery of superfast broadband for rural communities.

The RPA is also supporting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in developing a new regulatory and delivery framework to ensure a smooth and orderly EU exit from Day 1.


Much anticipated turnaround on Wild Bird Pest Control Ruling

In June 2019, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued three new general licences for the killing or taking of wild birds in England, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, together with guidance. Previously, in May 2019, Defra took back decision-making powers from Natural England (NE) on general licences for wild birds.

Later Defra published the government response to its May 2019 call for evidence. The call for evidence demonstrated a range of impacts from the withdrawal of the licences, including crow attacks during lambing, the risk of predation for eggs and fledglings of conservation concern, and public health issues from urban pigeons.

The new licences will allow users to control certain species of wild birds to:

  • Conserve wild birds and flora or fauna.
  • Preserve public health or public safety.
  • Prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters.

The new Defra licences will not apply to European protected sites and will be valid until 29 February 2020. Defra will review longer-term general licensing arrangements and consult by the end of summer 2019.

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