Up for Grabs

Agricullture Bill

March 2019, and everything still seems all up for grabs. The Agriculture Bill is unlikely to get through by the proposed deadline. All you need to know about Agriculture Bill according to Country Landowners (CLA). CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “The development of a new post-Brexit UK agriculture policy is a seminal moment for the future of our countryside." It is indeed, but what has happened to the Bill? Government state of play, still awaiting report stage and 3rd reading. Government description of BIll.
July 2019 and matters still feel 'up for grabs'. Our new Prime Minister, elected by less than 0.3% of population, wants a 'hard' Brexit, and is preparing for 'No Deal'. 'No deal' will be a for disaster to farmers - especially those in West. DEFRA has decided which tariffs will stay of the 2000 (farm) and 15000) to protect our farmers against cheap food coming in, but they can do nothing to remove them from other countries where we wish to export. Nor can they do much about quotas, as these will be inherited from EU.
According to 'the Agri-Brigade' in Private Eye (Issue 1503. 23 Aug 2019) : "Gove's much-heralded Agriculture Bill was kicked into touch as his proposed retention of food import tariffs proved too contentious with some of his 'free trade' cabinet colleagues." Aug 2019.
Sept 3 Agriculture Bill set to fall amid chaos in Westminster. "To be carried over requires agreement of the party business managers & the consent of the HOC" V unlikely in circumstances. TFA leader said it was: "Tremendous waste of everybody's time'.October - Bill gets lost during Proroguement, but when that deemed illegal, it reappears in November.
ELMS Part of the Bill is the increasing move from 'PIllar 1' to Environmental Land Management Scheme (previoulsy part of Pillar 2), so by 2027 farmers will depend much more on providing environmental public goods. Strutt & Parker on 'ELMS and the funding gap' assumes "that the profits that farmers will earn from agri-environment measures are double compared with current levels. The changes will most affect farms that are highly reliant on Basic Payments - cereals, mixed and lowland livestock farms. Sectors like dairy will be less affected. The net profits of the middle 50% of farmers will fall significantly, by 47-68% (excluding dairy). The bottom 25% also suffer significant falls, of 22-63%." So greening will not make up losses in Basic Payment subsidies.

National Food Strategy


The Agriculture Bill may go ahead, although there is an election in the way now, but coming up is the National Food Strategy. @KerryMP asks whether Ben Elliot and Henry Dimbleby will continue in their roles at @DefraGovUK. Villiers indicates yes, the National Food Strategy is going ahead...new page soon.
NFU Say "Brexit offers the Government the opportunity to Back British farming and improve the country’s food sustainability" at the British Science Festival. NFU Deputy - now, President Minette Batters stressed the important role British farmers can play in securing our domestic food supply for the future, in a debate on food sustainability.
Spoof Brexit Shop opens up. The “Costupper” store in Peckham High Street has opened by the People’s Vote campaign, which claims the average household will be paying £546 more per year for goods due to a fall in sterling. The campaigners also claim products will be of a poorer quality post-Brexit, meaning it has "stocked" items such as hormone injected beef and wilted flowers.

Sustain's report spells out four food Brexit issues which will hit the stands in 2018. "They illustrate why politics, finance and food are being increasingly entangled, and why a new vision, policies and partnerships are needed."
The four are:What’s going to happen to food prices? Will robots take over or will crops be rotting in the fields? What will happen to farm subsidies? Food standards: More than just chlorine-washed chicken See Trump & Trade
Bittersweet Brexit deals in detail in these issues :

PricesFood prices will continue to rise for two main reasons. 1. Our pound devalued after the vote, and was propped up by another £60b (BILLION!) given to bankers in Quantitative Easing - they (but only they) can pick the rich harvest from Magic Money Trees found in a secret orchard in the City of London. None was given to farm or food workers.2 We miss out on Single Market and Customs Union and have to pay more for checks either tariff checks if we come out of the Customs Union, or non-tariff checks (for phytosanitary purposes) if we come out of the Single Market.
Robots Some Brexiteers like Owen Patterson believe machines can replace EU migrant works. In Bittersweet Brexit I made case that machines are an expensive gamble that will not be taken by any but richest farmers in these risky times. See 'Please Stay'' for more.
Strawberry picking machine is a few years away Soft fruit "Produce requires a lighter touch, and berries, in particular, are damn near impossible to pick robotically.
"Harvest CROO prototype—a big, hulking thing, like a pontoon boat on wheels—inches over eight rows of strawberries at a time. As the beds pass beneath, 16 robotic arms attached to a single chassis spin and whir to lift the leaves off the plant, take photos of the berry, and with a plastic clamp, pluck the red ones off the stem. Then, internally, the machine loads the fruit into plastic clamshell containers with a packing capacity of 1,000 pounds.Think of the old Terminator movies, with the robots spinning around and picking things out, It is 3 years away from commercial launch in the USA.
Robot uses machine learning "The ‘Vegebot’ was initially trained to recognise and harvest iceberg lettuce in a lab setting. It has now been successfully tested in a variety of field conditions in cooperation with G’s Growers, a local fruit and vegetable co-operative. Although the prototype is nowhere near as fast or efficient as a human worker, it demonstrates how the use of robotics in agriculture might be expanded, even for crops like iceberg lettuce which are particularly challenging to harvest mechanically" The Vegebot first identifies the ‘target’ crop within its field of vision, then determines whether a particular lettuce is healthy and ready to be harvested, and finally cuts the lettuce from the rest of the plant without crushing it so that it is ‘supermarket ready’.
If robotic harvesters are programmed with algorithms refined through repetition and increased input of data, a sociological danger - by anthropomorphising robots?
From 'Introducing Robocrop'. Landworker Summer 2019
Subsidies
The main thrust of Bitterseet Brexit is to use the EU funds now under 'our control' to distribute to land workers. The EU's CAP £3+B goes to ,landowners - the larger they are the more they get, should go instead to land workers. 300,000 workers and farmers (about the number on the land now) could get an extra 10k year bringing their wages up to Living wage.
Standards
Standards are much more complex than chlorinated chicken and extend to hormone pumped beef, ractomine pigs, hygiene standards of milk production and many more. The best guarantee is to stay in the Single Market, as it does not make economic sense for farm and food producers to improve their standards of production, unless there is a lucrative market to sell into. It is called the EU Single Market.

View from afar analyses impacts

  • In the UK, food prices will increase, making consumers in the UK the biggest losers.
  • The losses to consumers could be offset by reduced payments to the EU27 and gains for producers as prices increase in the UK.
  • In the EU27, declining food prices would benefit consumers but reduce producer income.
But one thing is sure - there will be major changes and it is all 'up for grabs'. Join in the fight for better food.
The main thrust of the book is to increase local food sourcing. It is worthy of debate the the £3+B in present subsidies could go to workers, or to Local Authorities. They would be in best place to distribute subsidies that could benefit local producers and provide healthier food to local communities. This can achieve a number of positives, including reducing the amount of food imports. At present they cost £66 Billion. We should be able to half that and so use the saved £33B for social goods.
An oft quoted example of this approach is Preston, here in Lancashire. Preston is modeling itself on the recovery of Cleveland in the USA. Preston city council has spent an additional £4m locally from 14% of its budget in 2012 to 28% in 2016. I am involved with an organisation called the LARDER (Lancs & Region Dietary Education Resource). For more, see 'What we can do'