18 September 2018

What Brexit means for all things Green

On 12 September 2018, the UK Government announced a new Agricultural Bill, setting out a major post-Brexit policy to replace the current subsidy system of Direct Payments to farmers based on the total amount of land farmed.

A new Environmental Land Management system will start from next year which aims to reward farmers and land managers in return for “public goods”, including better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding. Those that provide the greatest environmental benefits will be rewarded with the largest payments, which is believed to lay the foundations for a Green Brexit.

Key aims

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said that the Bill will be underpinned by measures to increase productivity and investment in R&D, including funding for research projects. As such, using the powers in the Agriculture Bill, Defra has pledged to:

  • support innovation to improve productivity;
  • improve investment in farming equipment, technology and infrastructure; and
  • facilitate collaboration and pioneer the use of more innovative and efficient farming techniques.

A Defra policy statement has since served to highlight the priority of the Bill in enhancing food security based on strong domestic production, acknowledging that British farmers play a crucial role in the food chain and that this future policy will support farmers to provide more home-grown produce.

This comes at a time when concerns over global food shortages are steadily growing as current projected food production trends fall well short of the projected demand of a global population (expected to reach 9 billion by 2050), and when importation of food products from foreign countries may become more complicated for the UK following Brexit.

Why focus on agriculture?

Agri-Science was identified in 2014 as part of the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) “Eight Great Technologies” report as a robust and growing area for innovation in the UK. We have already had glimpses of a number of new technologies that are set to revolutionise traditional farming methods and potentially offer farmers and land managers a greater share of the rewards under the new system. The use of new technologies, including drones and robotics, farm management software packages, vertical farming, aquaponic farms for urban environments, gene-editing and biological pesticides, to name but a few, may become even more commonplace as farmers become further incentivised to improve their productivity and the extent they contribute to the “public goods”.

The Agricultural Bill thus appears to add additional impetus for further research and innovation in what has already been identified as a significant area of growth in the UK.

Mathys & Squire’s Agri-Tech team work with a range of businesses at the cutting edge of farming and food production. To discuss IP and Agri-tech, please call 0207 830 0000.

Michael Stott has worked in the patent profession since 2008 and has been involved in the drafting and prosecution of patent applications in the UK, Europe, and many overseas jurisdictions, including the US. Michael’s expertise span a wide range of technologies including electronic materials and devices, agrochemicals, petrochemistry, food chemistry and absorbent articles.