IN A legislative leap forward, the UK Agriculture Bill setting out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in the future with public money for 'public goods' has passed into law.

The Bill, introduced to Parliament in January this year, has been the subject of some controversy, as MPs sought to amend it to include statutory safeguards on food standards, aided by sceptical scrutiny in the House of Lords.

However, those amendments did not pass, and beginning next year the Bill will underpin the seven year transition period to a new agricultural system. While the detail of Scotland's support systems is a devolved matter, aspects of the UK Bill will define the framework within which Scottish legislators will be allowed to work.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Our landmark Agriculture Act will transform the way we support farmers. The funds released as a result of the phasing out of the legacy Basic Payment Scheme will be re-invested into a roll out of our future farming policy, which will be centred around support aimed at incentivising sustainable farming practices, creating habitats for nature recovery and supporting the establishment of new woodland and other ecosystem services to help tackle challenges like climate change.

“We will support farmers in reducing their costs and improving their profitability, to help those who want to retire or leave the industry to do so with dignity, and to create new opportunities and support for new entrants coming in to the industry.”

The UK Government said that in order to spend more of the annual budget for agriculture on boosting productivity and environmental benefits, Direct Payments will be phased out over the seven-year agricultural transition period, from 2021 until the end of 2027, giving farmers and land managers time to adapt to the new approach and consider which component of the new Environmental Land Management scheme will work best for their farm.