Natasha Yorke-Edgell looks ahead at what will happen with the Agriculture Bill.

Since February last year, RSPB campaigners have taken over 17,000 actions to influence the UK Agriculture Bill – that includes over 11,000 emails to MPs! Thank you all for putting so much time and heart into fighting for an ambitious Bill that truly restores our environment as well as producing healthy sustainable food.

We know it’s been a long process, with big gaps in between while Brexit chaos rumbled on and parliamentary timetables were pushed further and further ahead. As you know, we were expecting the Bill to enter report stage in January, and thanks to you MPs received over 3,000 emails asking them to support amendments for nature – but we are still waiting. At this rate it doesn’t look like report stage will happen until the autumn!

So what happens next? And what can we do to make sure the importance of this Bill for nature doesn’t get lost in Brexit chaos?

Let’s recap on what’s happened so far:

  • Spring 2018: "Health and Harmony" DEFRA consultation
  • September 2018: Bill introduced to House of Commons at First Reading
  • October 2018: Second Reading (House of Commons)
  • November 2018: Committee Stage (House of Commons)

 But we’re still waiting on the following stages:

  • Report stage (This was due in January but continues to be postponed because of Brexit negotiations – we expect it won’t happen now until Autumn.)
  • Third Reading
  • House of Lords (Reading 1, 2, committee stage, report stage, 3)
  • Consideration of amendments
  • Royal Assent

You can keep track on the progress of the Bill here.

So - we are almost half way through passing this law, and there’s still time for it to be improved, or worsened. That’s why we need to keep our eye on the horizon, keep up the pressure, and make sure our politicians know we are still counting on them to push for an ambitious, nature-friendly Agriculture Bill.

What you can do:

Keep on telling your MP you care about nature-friendly food and farming and you want them to represent your concerns for nature when it does (finally) reach report stage. You can find your MP’s contact details here. Over the summer they will be back in your constituency, where their priority is engaging in the local issues that matter most to you. As their constituent – let them know this really matters to you. Why not pop into one of their surgeries and have a chat?

Or if you want something a little more all singing and dancing, join us on The Time is Now mass lobby of parliament on 26th June. We’re asking for a strong Environment Bill and a commitment to go Net Zero (carbon emissions) by 2050, but this is also an opportunity to ask them about the Agriculture Bill! Both of these laws need to be aligned to make sure they work together to restore nature. The Time is Now is a fun way of coming together with other passionate people from your area to talk to your MP outside Westminster itself. Sign up here!

What to ask for:

To restore nature, the Agriculture Bill must:

- Recognise that sustainable long-term food production depends upon a healthy natural environment.

- Support farmers to provide 'public goods', such as a wildlife-rich countryside, clean water and healthy soils.

- Establish a secure, long-term funding mechanism so that farmers can invest in their land with confidence and certainty.

Urgent action is needed to better reward nature-friendly farming, restore our natural environment and secure a wildlife-rich countryside.

If you want any more information about how you can take action for the UK Agiculture Bill, just get in touch at campaigns@rspb.org.uk

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