RICHMOND MP Rishi Sunak told local farmers that the Government's Agriculture Bill is good news, despite current uncertainty over the terms of Brexit.

Speaking to members of Northallerton NFU, he said the Bill currently making its way through Parliament presented a major opportunity for the industry.

Not being bound by the rules of the Common Agricultural Policy was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the UK to create a support system for British farming that was less bureaucratic, less cumbersome and rewarded farmers for looking after the land.

Mr Sunak said the seven-year transition period after the existing commitment to maintain current support payments to 2021 would cushion farmers from the impact of changes.

As the acerage-based payments were phased out in favour of payments made under the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) system, farmers would be protected from major changes in the level of support payments.

Under ELM, payment would be made for “public goods” such as environmental enhancement, climate change mitigation, improved access to the countryside, air and water quality, animal and plant health and farm productivity.

Mr Sunak said he understood farmers’ anxiety about the detail of the new payment system. Trials would take place in 2019 and 2020 before any reduction in acerage-based payments.

The MP said the Bill also made provision for a series of improvements to the way farmers were treated by the market.

These included the establishment of a statutory code of practice governing contracts between producers and ‘first purchasers’ of produce and for the Secretary of State to make regulations for the purpose of promoting fair contractual dealing.

Powers to collect and share data from the agrifood supply chain to help farmers and producers increase productivity, to manage risk, and support animal and plant health and traceability.

Strengthening and promoting producer organisations to co-ordinate their activities to improve competitiveness; and allowing interventions in the market and for farmers to be supported during periods of extreme market volatility.

Mr Sunak repeated his pledge to try to bring Defra officials in charge of the detail of a new post-Brexit agriculture support system to North Yorkshire to talk to farmers about the practicalities of payment process.

A question and answer session at the end of the meeting was dominated by questions about Brexit.

James Sanderson, of Morton Grange Farm, Morton-on-Swale, asked a question about the industry’s ability to recruit migrant workers after leaving the EU. Mr Sunak said having control over immigration would enable the UK to recruit the workers it needed for specific sectors of the economy.

A straw poll at the end of the meeting revealed 11 members in favour of the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal agreement. Two indicated that they believed the UK should walk away without a deal.