We are working closely with our members and government to ensure the benefits of farmer co-operation are properly understood and utilised in UK agriculture.
Protecting farmers' ability to co-operate
The Agriculture Bill sets out a new competition settlement for agricultural co-operation post-Brexit. While there are promising aspects of the Bill and some encouraging statements from Defra in its policy statement and in Parliament, we have identified potential risks for co-operatives in the Bill's competition provisions.
Agriculture Bill and Defra policy statement
In preparation for leaving the EU, Defra has introduced an Agriculture Bill to Parliament. This Bill is largely enabling legislation, providing the broad framework within which governments for England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have powers to set the legal and regulatory aspects of their future agricultural policies, through secondary legislation.
Defra has also published a policy statement which provides an overview of its priorities and direction of travel. This includes some encouraging statements in relation to farmer co-operation focused on innovation, research and development, productivity enhancement and environmental management.
Future of food and farming consultation
We will be working with our members to respond to this landmark consultation. Defra is proposing a big role for farmer co-ops. These developments are the fruit of the close work we've done with Defra and our members since the EU referendum and signals government's intent to help farmers strengthen their businesses through co-operation.
Farmer collaboration fund
Co-operatives UK has welcomed the announcement of a new £10 million fund to support co-operation between farmers as they prepare for business outside the European Union. This is a significant policy win for the agricultural co-op sector.
Safeguarding co-operation in competition policy
To provide continuity for farmers and allow the development of a productive, resilient and sustainable farming industry, the accommodations for agricultural co-operation within EU competition law need to be retained in full through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and related legislation. We have briefed Defra, BEIS, DEXEU and Parliamentary committees on this. We have assurances from Defra that the intention is to recreate the status quo on Brexit Day. However, the devil is in the detail.
AHDB strategy 2017-20 consultation
We have responded to the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) consultation on its 2017-20 strategy. We've called for farmer-led co-operation to be included as a cross-cutting theme within the strategy. It should be seen as an enabler of the actions being proposed and co-operatives should be viewed as potential delivery partners.
Positioning in Brexit
Following the vote to leave the EU we convened a roundtable for agricultural co-ops to define key positions for the sector during and after Brexit.