THE NFU has hailed the introduction of the Agriculture Act as a ‘landmark moment’ for post-Brexit farming, marking over two years of campaigning to improve the Bill.

Since the first version of the Bill was published in 2018, significant improvements have been made to ensure the importance of food production and food security are properly recognised.

The final legislation also includes a requirement for a report to be presented to Parliament focusing on the impacts that future trade deals could have on the food and farming sector.

Further amendments to the Trade Bill are expected to assign this responsibility to the Trade and Agriculture Commission.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “As the first domestic legislation covering agriculture for over 70 years, this really is a landmark moment for our food and farming industry. Simply put, the Agriculture Act will set how we farm in this country for generations to come.

“Getting to this point has not been easy. Two years ago when the Bill was first published, the clear absence of food production and food security troubled many. The NFU made the case at the highest levels of government that this piece of legislation needed to recognise the role of farmers as food producers and I am pleased it now does that much more robustly.

“It will also now play a crucial role in ensuring our farmers are not undercut in future trade deals by food imports that would be illegal to produce here. By strengthening the Trade and Agriculture Commission and putting it on a statutory footing, the government has shown it is listening to the case we made, together with the millions of people that feel so strongly about this issue.

“However, the introduction of this Act does not mean the issue of domestic agricultural policy is solved forever. Farmers across the country find themselves in uncertain and challenging times and it is crucial that the government continues to work with the NFU and our members to shape how they use the powers granted to them in the Agriculture Act.”

CLA President Mark Bridgeman has welcomed the news that the Agriculture Bill has finally passed into UK law.

He said: “This is only the beginning, not the end of the process for the farming industry. The Agriculture Act serves to remind us of the profound responsibilities we, in agriculture, have to feed the nation, to help mitigate climate change and reverse biodiversity decline, and also to help support our local communities through job creation and economic development.

“With Government’s new powers, it must commit itself to working hand in glove with organisations such as the CLA to ensure future policies actually work effectively on the ground, while also having the ambition to recognise the potential of the rural economy to answer some of the greatest questions facing the country, such as climate change.”

The announcement that the Agriculture Bill has received Royal Assent comes after the CLA wrote to 200 rural MPs, warning that Government is not ready to begin the transition to the new public goods scheme, with large cuts in the Basic Payment Scheme.

It warned that, while the bulk of future investment will be through the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS), it will not be fully available to farmers for four years. Meanwhile, cuts to the old scheme will begin in January 2021.