Leaving the EU means the UK will be leaving the EU's Common Agricultural Policy behind. To provide a replacement, the Agriculture Bill ("the UK Bill") will provide the legal framework for the establishment of a new system of agricultural assistance for farmers and land managers. The UK Bill, currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords, will provide a broad spectrum of powers to current and future governments to provide financial assistance as well as to make policy interventions.

How does this Bill apply to Scotland?

Although agriculture is a devolved policy area, some aspects of the UK Bill apply to Scotland, including food security, fair dealing obligations, producer organisations, fertilisers, identification and traceability of animals, the red meat levy, organic products and the World Trade Organisation agreement on agriculture.

The Scottish Government introduced legislation – the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill – in November 2019 proposing to keep the farm support approach largely the same until 2024. The UK Bill is more advanced in terms of policy setting for England than the draft Scottish legislation, which we reported on in June.

What does the Bill do?

Food Production - in developing new forms of financial assistance, the UK Government will now be obliged to encourage and incentivise the production of food in an environmentally sustainable way. The development of schemes such as the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) are expected to form the centrepiece of the future system of public money for delivery of public goods.

Phasing out the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) - the UK Bill establishes a new system in England based on paying public money for public goods as well as a framework for phasing out direct payments in England (albeit not in other parts of the UK) over a seven-year transition period. As well as ELMS, new schemes for animal welfare improvements and soil protection are expected.

Food Security - the UK Government will have to report on the position of the nation’s food security every five years.

Transparency and Fairness – the UK Bill gives UK Ministers powers to intervene during times when agricultural markets may be facing exceptional conditions, such as to provide farmers with financial support or operate public intervention and private storage aid schemes. The UK Bill also sets out measures to increase transparency and fairness in the supply chain for farmers and food producers. There are a range of new requirements on collection and sharing of data, by placing fair dealing obligations on business purchasers of agricultural products, and, by introducing new measures on producer organisations.

The measures set out in the UK Bill have been largely welcomed by the relevant sector bodies. As we enter an uncertain period for domestic policy together with increased liberalisation of the UK food market through post Brexit trade deals, food traceability and food security have moved up the political agenda.

Amendments seeking to secure food standards, such as a requirement for agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards, were made at the UK Bill's third reading in the House of Lords on 1 October. Despite significant lobbying, those amendments were rejected in a vote by the House of Commons on 12 October (by 332 votes to 279), with the UK Government stated to be committed to high standards but concerned over imposing restrictions on their ability to broker trade deals in future.

Both the UK and Scottish Governments have stated their intention to create common frameworks where UK wide cooperation is deemed necessary. However, the divergence in financial agricultural support in the UK Bill suggests that a common framework on agricultural policy may not emerge.