Farmers, landowners and food producers have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of English farming and the environment, with a consultation launched today (27 February) by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
The consultation, titled Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit, runs for 10 weeks and is looking for views on:
- Options for how to gradually phase out direct payments, starting with the largest landowners, whilst developing a new environmental land management scheme.
- The range of public goods that could qualify for government funding under the new schemes, such as high animal welfare standards, wildlife protection, public access, and new technologies
- Measures to move away from heavy handed enforcement which penalises farmers for minor errors, including a more efficient inspection regime to uphold important environmental and animal welfare standards
- New business models and incentives for industry to invest in innovation and new technologies to increase their profitability.
The Environment Secretary Michael Gove said “As we leave the EU, we have a historic opportunity to deliver a farming policy which works for the whole industry. Today we are asking for the views of those who will be affected to make sure we get this right so any future schemes reflect the reality of life for famers and food producers. The proposals in this paper set out a range of possible paths to a brighter future for farming. They are the beginning of a conversation, not a conclusion and we want everyone who cares about the food we eat and the environment around us to contribute.”
Farm payments in 2019 will follow the existing model, and in the meantime, the government has pledged to simplify applications for farmers wishing to enter into existing schemes to provide environmental benefits such as Countryside Stewardship.
The consultation will run for ten weeks, closing on 8 May 2018.
The government’s proposals will see money redirected from direct payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which are based on the amount of land farmed, to a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods” - principally their work to enhance the environment and invest in sustainable food production. In line with its manifesto commitment, the government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022.
Proposals include an ‘agricultural transition’ during which direct payments would continue, providing stability and certainty for farmers as they prepare for the new system. At the same time, however, reductions to direct payments to the largest landowners first could free up around £150 million in the first year of the agricultural transition period, which could be used to boost farmers delivering environmental enhancement and other public goods.
Director of policy and the Allerton Project, Alastair Leake has welcomed the proposal.
He said: “Across Europe politicians agree that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) needs reform. As the UK leaves the EU we have the exciting opportunity to lead the way on how this can be best achieved. Defra must be congratulated for starting an open consultation as we review our options, and early indications are positive. The GWCT supports the re-direction of payments to reward farmers, who manage over 70% of our countryside, for the work they carry out for the benefit of wildlife and the environment.”
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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