UK Agriculture Bill needs enhanced consultation with devolved nations on trade commitments

Press Release

Devolved nations need to be properly consulted on World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations which could negatively impact future farming policy, Scottish Land & Estates said today.

Ahead of the third reading of the UK Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday, SLE said it was vital there are agreed processes for devolved administrations to make their views known to the UK Government who will ultimately be responsible for ensuring levels of public support do not distort trade. SLE added that it was important that the Scottish Government engaged in any process - and that the UK Government closely considered the impact meeting WTO obligations may have on the rural economy.

In a briefing issued ahead of the sitting on Wednesday, SLE also said:

  • Food Security: We welcome the inclusion of Food Security in this bill but would encourage the reporting to also include reference to emissions, climate change impact and sustainability of supply to ensure a more complete understanding of the situation.
  • Fair Dealing in the Supply Chain: We agree with the intention to improve the fair dealing provisions and build on the work of the Grocery Code Adjudicator.
  • Producer Organisations: We recognise the need to provide more support for producer organisations and would encourage efforts that enable greater collaboration between business.
  • Standards: Scotland’s producers need guarantees from the UK Government that domestic production and environmental standards are upheld as part of future international trade deals.

Eleanor Kay, Policy Adviser (Agriculture) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “It is not just the outcomes of this legislative process that will shape agriculture in the future but also the decision-making processes that are established via the UK Agriculture Bill. Although many aspects of farming and land management are devolved, it is absolutely vital that this Bill considers the views and needs of Scottish agriculture.

“This is particularly important in relation to trade. Clauses within the Bill give the UK Government the power to ensure compliance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on public support and their ability to distort trade. This would include ceilings to apply on payments across the UK.

“Clarity is therefore needed on the potential for financial constraints for Scottish agricultural policy and any issues surrounding devolved competence. Whilst the UK Government is ultimately the signatory to WTO clauses, policy choices in Scotland could be constrained by decisions taken by a UK Secretary of State.

“The issues surrounding WTO Agreement on Agriculture is clearly one which needs resolving and we would like to see like to see greater transparency on the consultation process between the Secretary of State and devolved authorities to ensure that decisions are not forced upon them without due consideration of their impact. This should happen before the Bill becomes law and the creation of a potential problem at a later date.”