National News

National News


MPs reject May deal by massive amount. Everything farmers need to know
'Withdrawal Deal'agreed by Cabinet 15/11/18 including Gove and Fox (but not Raab). Fox cannot go out and do deals till 2020. Gove probably agrees because the deal does mean coming out of the Common Agricultural and Fishing policies - and thus enabling his 'green Brexit'- his main prize. See also 'Coming Out'/Fisheries
The Withdrawl deal (to be voted on 15/01) addresses leaving the EU, while the future relationship is much vaguer. UK appoints DEFRA Minister for Food Supplies post Brexit. David Rutley previously worked for Pepsico, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Safeway and ASDA. Can we now expect vans coming down our street selling chicken nuggets & coke?
Hard Brexit could throw food and drink industry into chaos, according to insiders. This includes increased costs, labour shortages, need to more British workers, disruption of food chains, two tier food system, delays of organic exports, stockpiling, self-sufficiency. 'No deal' is not an option says FDF CEO
Farmers 70+% confident and food business 80+% confident of future prospects when in the EU, but this falls to 37% & 51% respectively once outside the EU.

Devolution


There is a big rift developing regards 'devolution' and agricultural matters are 'devolved'. Each of four countries have different farming practices, which need to be addressed. Scotland has a lot of upland, Northern Ireland has lots of small mixed farms, and Wales is almost entirely pasture. Scotland accuse the British government of a 'power grab' to regain power.See rt column and Devolution for how this war is developing.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said in Ireland that Johnson, Rees-Mogg and Farage had not proposed any plan instead of Chequers and were acting like the 'Three Stooges'
Scottish Police 'prepared for public disorder following food shortages. See No deal for more.
Scottish Minster says 'Deal' OK as it protects Scottish fishing industry, as it allows independently negotiating access and quota shares. But not all happy as essentially the issue has been parked (See Coming Out/Fisheries Policy for more)

Retailers stockpiling food

Government officials say an unpublished government report insists Britons will have “enough calories” to survive disruption following 'No Deal', but some fresh foods would quickly run out. More 'No deal' Tesco and M&S stockpiling. M&S is bulking up on "additional long-life stuff". Sainsbury chief says there isnt much capacity to stockpile - a few days only.

Agriculture Bill

New Agriculture Bill published Second Reading 10/10/18 sets out "how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for “public goods”, such as better air and water quality and improved soil health"The scale of potential change has been compared to the Agriculture Act 1947, which sought to increase food production after the Second World War and introduced higher farming standards.This 2018 Bill sets out to provide the architecture for most parts of the UK (not Scotland see 'Devolution' on right)). SNP's Diedre Brock spells out the issues See below for 'Opposition' in 2nd Reading.
Responses from Local Government Association APPG Tim Lang Tenant Farmers Association Centre for Agroecology- could mean more megafarms EFRA Committee quiz Gove & Eustace expressing concern about maintaining standards on imported food
Tight Brexit schedule could leave Agricultural bill without proper scrutiny
Lords plot radical overhaul of Agriculture Bill for giving too much power to Minister over farmers.
My response: ' to Health & Harmony' and then the Bill, promises the earth, but 1) does little for health and 2) does not say where the money is coming from. It sees a green and pleasant land, with 3 ) little talk about food production and 4) doesn't mention who is going to do the work - old farmers and young migrant workers? Finally, 5) it fails to mention free trade deals (promoted by same Minister (Michael Gove) and how most future FTAs would wreck any future farm policy. See Consultation for lots more.

Minister


Gove is 'proud to back ' Farming: The Backbone of Britain which highlights "the positive contribution made by farmers and their families, not only in producing food, but as caretakers of our country’s stunning landscapes and booming wildlife populations." And rebuffs cheap food policy claims #ProudToFarm
Gove claims the hackles of EU control can now offer new Environmental Land Management, where farmers can come together to work out ways to improve soil health and sustainability, but still with emphasis on productivity, R&D is seen as important. Payment in future will be for 'public goods'. There is virtually nothing on 'food policy' - ie what food we want grown and where to address the obesity and food insecurity.

Main possible EU-UK 'Deals'

Canada

This is the deal we are quite likely to end up looking like; being like Canada in the world could fit our identity. We hear people talking about being Canada +++. The big issue is that coming out of the Customs Union, still leaves us the choice of keeping our food and farm tariffs - to protect those industries. Yet Canada ++ implies doing away with those tariffs - and you often hear those wanting to remove our food tariffs supporting the Canada deal. See more on Canada deal in EU Deals with other countries

Norway

Norway is in the European Economic Area (EEA), along with the EU. This is much closer integration with the EU than a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), but equally also places greater constraints on the members’ policy discretion. The agreement does not cover agriculture or fisheries so does not include the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy or Common Fisheries Policy and that tariffs still remain. They pay into EU and have to follow standards & rules. Because the EEA is an FTA rather than a customs union the parties are free to sign separate trade agreements with third countries (as long as such agreements do not modify any technical barriers). ie They can alter tariff arrangements but not non tariff arrangements.!!)

No Deal

The possibility of 'no deal' has increased dramatically. Bookies now (July 18) make no deal' the 1/2 favourite (ie you have to put two on to get one back) a huge tumble from the 5/2 at the beginning of the year.
No deal will mean Britain will need to adopt European Customs Union tariff rates as its WTO default position. It will wreck havoc throughout the food chain. See new page 'No Deal' for latest.

White Paper

PM proposals to Cabinet (July 18) 'The UK will "maintain a common rulebook for all goods" with the EU, including agricultural products. More on Chequers Plan . Government plan - after 2 years. See how it relates with food and farming. Arising from the 'Chequers Pan', the White Paper for our proposed relationship with the EU "looks more like a wish list of future food trade with the EU rather than anything the remaining 27 members states are ever likely to accept. The suggestion, for example, that the EU would allow 'no tariffs' on any food goods traded between the UK and EU but at the same time leave the UK free to 'control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world' fanciful, verging on fantatist" Private Eye Bio-Waste Spreader
Cereals 2018 has lost around a quarter of attendees in last couple of years, maybe due to concerns over cereals future. Only 8% of arable farms would make a profit without CAP subsidies - promised but not guaranteed where. These would be on the very best land. What about the rest. So investment in v expensive gear is down, while our food trade deficit rises beyond its present $33b. See Bittersweet Brexit Chap 'Buy British', for lots more.

What could happen

House of Lords European Committee Brexit: Food prices and availability found: "that even in the ‘best case scenario’, with no tariffs and few customs barriers, international rules would oblige the UK to conduct more customs and borders checks than is currently the case. If an agreement cannot be negotiated by the time the UK leaves the EU the increase in tariffs could lead to significant price rises for consumers." Chair's Statement
BBC Tuesday Feb 20 Brexit and food - Chris Morris discovers what leaving the EU could mean for the British baked potato. BBC What do farmers think about Brexit? Some see export opportunities - eg China and Qatar, others see reliance on EU migrant workforceBBC Farming Today 'Where are we heading with year to go to Brexit?' Chatham House chapter, Vicki Hird from Sustain, Director of Exit at NFU and Arable farmer discuss. Available to 22 April.
Is Britain sleepwalking into a food crisis? "The wider backlash against neoliberalism has not touched the sanctity of market mechanisms in agriculture, even though the markets that serve it fulfil their purpose of balancing supply and demand through the price system only fitfully. " If at allFarmers Guardian sets up hub to debate as 'food is being tippexed out of government consultation' with one year to go. Includes Prof Tim Lang's 'Take Food Security Seriously' saying: "In about 30 months, the UK must have sorted how it is to be fed – by whom, on what terms, at what price, with what impact. At present, no-one seems to have a clue."
Local Authorities should prepare Brexit Food plans "Preparations to ensure we have a safe, adequate and sustainable food supply need to start urgently. Local Authorities (LAs) have a vital part to play in these preparations, but Government has so far neglected to provide guidance.

Opposition

Defra Shadow team 'upped its game' at Labour Conference Sept 18 highlighting "the importance of food production and security, the need to fix broken supply chains, the protection of domestic standards in trade deals, the necessity of long-term budgets and a desire to safeguard the wider rural economy."
Sue Hayman (Shadow DEFRA) "When you are looking at public payments for public goods, that has to include food, because the security of our food supply is beyond a public good, it is a moral imperative,” On her Facebook page she says she " will be bringing forward a Food Manifesto aimed at reducing food inequality. Labour will work with Britain's farmers to make sure UK food growing and production is a top priority."

Sue Hayman during Agriculture Bill


"It fails to ​provide a strategy to safeguard the nation’s food supply at a time when food poverty and foodbank demand are rising rapidly alongside an epidemic in food-related health inequality, fails to recognise the central importance of UK sustainable food production and supply, leading to a greater reliance on imports, while failing to provide for controls over the production methods, working conditions, or animal welfare and environmental standards in countries from which the UK’s food is imported."
Rebecca Pow pointed out: "It is interesting that she was not given a major slot on the main stage at the Labour conference".

Leave it to the Markets!

This important question was raised during debate of Agriculture Bill Hansard Col 165, and is crucial in understanding how we have got to point of importing half our food compared to about quarter 25 years ago.John RedwoodWhy did we lose so much market share and end up importing so much food under the CAP?Sue Hayman (Shadow Agric Spokesperson)That is a good question, but one to which I do not have a detailed answer—I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for that. It is a really important point: we were increasing production, but then it began to drop. It is an issue that we need to address. If there is a dramatic reduction in UK food production, greater reliance on imports would result in a lack of control over production, animal welfare, and environmental and working standards.James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con)The answer lies simply in the tastes of the consumer. We like oranges—we like food that grows abroad but which we do not grow. That demand has grown over the years, so we import more. We should be careful lest we try to search for set levels of output or demand in what is still a market economy.James understood because of the Thatcher policy of 'leave it to the markets. Yet for some reason Labour do not - despite major concerns over 'neo-liberalism' - nowhere more apparent than in our food and farming.

Labour Party


Another World is possible David Drew Shadow EFRA "“Food is incredibly political because, along with housing, it is the most basic of all issues. You can’t ignore the politics of who produces your food, what they produce, who it’s for, what you sell it for, whether it is what people should be eating and whether they get enough of it. We need a real food policy, " He reviews
Fabian Society 'Labour Country; rebuild connection with rural voters' says: "Labour must reconnect with the politics and culture of the countryside to be confident of winning the next general election...Labour should pursue an economic strategy that delivers for rural areas and helps overcome the cultural and economic divisions in society. This would focus on enabling rural people to find economic success and social status close to home...Labour can stress that the Conservatives are tearing up, rather than conserving, our national heritage" Quite agree, and there are lots of ideas for this in a certain book..
The Future of Farming says: "Brexit offers opportunities for progressives to win back trust in rural Britain".
Labour's radical action on Animal Welfare would look at introducing a ban on the live export of animals for slaughter, consult landlords on giving tenants the right to keep a pet, strengthen the Hunting Act, enshrine the principal of animal sentience in law, end the badger cull, implement a review of animal testing and expand affordable vet care for people on low incomes.
At present Labour hold only 32 out of 199 rural seats. There are political opportunities for progressives, when there is the "real possibility of the Conservatives – who have traditionally dominated in rural areas – presiding over a ‘botched Brexit’ in which the UK falls off a ‘no deal’ cliff edge".
The report suggest a ‘buy-British’ voucher – replacing all area-based payments to British farmers with a voucher for every household to buy British produce. I suggest a modification of this - called 'incentive vouchers' (based on US SNAP incentives) for buying fruit and vegetables - good for health and local economy. London Mayor proposing Healthy Start vouchers See What we can do for more

Key characters' comments

NFU chair says: “Looking beyond Brexit, I see a progressive food and farming industry which focuses on four key areas – moral imperative, health and nutrition, integrity and standards, and working with nature –and delivers for all corners of society while fulfilling our moral obligations in a global economy and a changing world.
Arla say (July 18) "dairy products may become luxuries" "Everyday dairy products such as butter, yoghurt and cheese could become luxury items in Britain after Brexit, with price rises being caused by the slightest delay in the journey from farm to table, a report by the London School of Economics finds. The LSE research, commissioned by the company behind Lurpak, Anchor and Arla brands, also found that speciality cheeses could become scarce after Brexit".
AHDB One Year to go debate with Ben Briggs Farmers Guardian, Phil Bicknell AHDB, Tom Keen NFU & John Richards HCC. Concerns include lack of connection between trade and farm policy, yet hugely interlinked.Food Foundation say that "a triple impact of exchange rates, labour costs and tariffs are likely to make it even harder for us all to get our 5-a-day. Those on a low income, such as the 1 in 5 people earning below the Real Living Wage, will be impacted the most"
AHDB Report on Brexit Scenarios maps out "the range of possible post-Brexit situations and quantify their impact on UK farming, so far lacking from the post-referendum debate." The UK will still want to import Italian parma ham, Spanish chorizo, Irish beef, French cheeses etc. In these cases, even if the UK does not impose tariffs, there will be higher trade costs moving these goods through customs and port health checks. The AHDB estimates these additional costs could add 8 per cent to food from the EU
The head of the dairy giant ARLA, indirectly responsible for over 100,000 jobs, said their industry is facing "the biggest seismic change in the political and financial landscape in our lifetime" and called on the UK Government “to publish its future plans for agriculture in the UK through a parliamentary bill at the earliest opportunity early next year ". What's on the menu outside the EU? "Will the price of food in supermarkets go up, or down? And will food safety standards change? "
What ADAS says farmers need to do to prepare for Brexit
Select Committee says farm businesses 'could be wiped out after Brexit transition'. The Environment Food Agriculture & rural Affairs Committee asks the government "to consider establishing a special fund to support agriculture, which is facing some of the highest tariffs in WTO’s rules in addition to the loss of EU subsidies." See 'Bittersweet Brexit; book for details of the complexity of the tariff system and how it's massive impact on food and farm trade.
UK NFU - for England, Scotland, Wales and NI Say "While we are leaving the political union, we must retain frictionless access to European markets. Governments across the UK are ‘taking back control’ for agricultural policy. The farming ministers in all four regions must collaborate, as the UK farming unions are doing" We shall see.EU Response on how Brexit will affect EU

DEFRA (Dept for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs)

Public Affairs Committee may look into NAO report that Defra not prepared fro 'No deal' over 2years after referendum having completed only 15 of 154 agreements re trade and needing to pass 3 bills and 94 Statutory Instruments in next 6 months, despite Gove saying recently his department would be ready
Defra is due to have taken on an extra 1,200 people working directly on Brexit, as it seeks to replace the EU's Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies, following on from contraction of 1000 over previous Coalition years.
March 2018 Defra now says it has opened up 70 new workstreams to deal with Brexit issues - up from 43 just 3 months ago.
Defra should loose its responsibility for 'rural affairs', which should go to Housing & Communities, says to Lords Committee
DEFRA in dark over Brexit negotiations "Their preparations are being hampered by the pervasive uncertainty about the UK's future relationship with the EU, which leaves not only departments but also businesses in the dark about exactly what they need to do to prepare."
Senior Advisor job @ DEFRA on EU Exit - closing date extended. Job description.
400 staff from Environment Agency have been raided and redeployed to sort Brexit, jeopardising their plans for flooding, recycling, prosecutions, pollution...
DEFRA's progress is too complacent while fundamental issues remain and little engagement with business. Nov '18