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Agriculture after Brexit… health and harmony?

With the publication of the new Agriculture Command Paper, BVA Policy Officer Michael McGilligan examines what it means for animal health, animal welfare and the veterinary profession. 

Argiculture and brexitBrexit presents an exciting opportunity to reshape the system of agricultural support. Vets play a crucial role in UK agriculture, from the farm-gate to border checks- and everywhere in between. Now, we are at a crucial point where the Government needs to hear from the veterinary profession.

Already, we have put forward a veterinary vision for post-Brexit agriculture policy placing animal health and welfare as public goods at the centre. 

Defra has now launched ‘Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit’, giving us some insight into how agriculture policy is likely to operate in England after Brexit. It is heartening to see the Government making commitments on animal health and welfare, reflecting successful campaigning by BVA.

Public money being used for public goods

The paper spells out an overhaul of the system of agricultural support, with a phased withdrawal of direct payments to farmers. This will be replaced with a system of public money being used for public goods that benefit producers, consumers and wider society. Amongst public goods cited in the paper environmental enhancement and protection are given most prominence - with animal health and welfare close behind.

As we know animal health and welfare underpin the reputation of UK agricultural produce, so we are extremely pleased to see these recognised as public goods that will be supported within future agricultural policy post-Brexit. Some specifics suggested in the paper for how this would look in practice include: 

  • Pilot schemes that offer targeted payments to farmers who deliver higher welfare outcomes in sectors where animal welfare largely remains at the legislative minimum.
  • Payments to farmers who trial a new approach or technology which could improve welfare outcomes but which is not an industry standard.
  • Providing greater clarity of information to consumers to support higher welfare production.
  • Collaboration between government and industry to develop an ambitious plan to tackle endemic disease and drive up animal health standards. A clear vision and programme of partnership action will help us to tackle non-statutory endemic disease and health conditions in the form of an Animal Health ‘Pathway’. This is like a scheme that exists in Ireland: Animal Health Ireland
  • Better use of data as a risk management tool through improved traceability, surveillance and use of electronic identification.

Have your say

These suggestions are still at an early stage. There is an opportunity today for vets to engage and influence the final detailed policy. We will be responding to the consultation and I’m keen to hear from all members interested in the future of UK agriculture. You can send me your thoughts via [email protected] by 1 May 2018.


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