Thank you for contacting me about the Agriculture Bill.
Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. I am pleased that the Government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an 'agricultural transition' period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.
Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement.
Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. They are keenly aware of the importance of seasonal labour, so will work with the industry to ensure it has the right people with the right skills.
We must take this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. I am convinced that we will harness this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.
Meanwhile, I firmly believe the Agriculture Bill carries out the governments aims of protecting both the UK's vibrant ecosystem and the natural environment worldwide. Environmental and economic progress are not just compatible: they depend on each other. The Government is committed to being the UK's greenest ever, and has established a 25-Year Plan to Improve the Environment to help achieve this goal.
Carbon emissions have fallen by 6 percent since 2010 contributing to a 27 per cent reduction since 1990. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.
Between 2010 and 2015 Ministers provided £7.5 million to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas, created 150,000 acres of priority habitats and planted over 11 million trees; they are now committed to planting 11 million more. The National Pollinator Strategy will improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators, and identify any additional actions needed to protect them.
Fifty Marine Conservation Zones have been created to help protect our rich marine life, joining the UK's over 500 existing marine protected areas, and a further 41 have since been announced. A new UK Blue Belt of protected sites is now being created in British waters and around the UK's 14 Overseas Territories where there is local support and environmental need.
As set out in the 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, the decision to leave the European Union has created an historic opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced.
I can understand why this is a moment of concern for some. The European Union has, in a number of ways, been a force for good environmentally, so I am pleased that the Government has no intention of weakening the environmental protections it has seen put in place. In other areas it has not always succeeded, most clearly in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The CAP rewards land-holding ahead of good environmental practice. Outside it, we can use public money to reward environmentally responsible land use. Meanwhile despite reforms that the UK has led since 2010, still 40 per cent of fish stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea are being fished unsustainably. By leaving the CFP, taking back control of our waters, granting access and allocating quotas based on sustainability, we can pursue the very highest standards in marine conservation.
Outside the EU we can develop global gold standard environmental policies, taking smarter, more targeted approaches to the improvements we want to see. As a start, Ministers have been consulting on a new independent, statutory body to advise and challenge the Government and potentially other public bodies on environmental legislation, stepping in when needed to hold them to account and enforce standards.
We can, and I believe we will, be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.
If you would like to know more about my views on the environment then please visit: https://www.timloughton.com/campaigns/animal-welfare-environment.