The government has unveiled steps to cut subsidies for farmers and replace them with payments to protect the environment.
Post-Brexit agricultural policy changes, which will be implemented in seven years to 2028, are seen as the most important agricultural change for England in more than 50 years.
The government roadmap sets out how “direct payments”, which are disbursed under the basic land development payment scheme, will be reduced from 2021 and phased out by 2028.
The government has committed to keeping the £ 2.4 billion a year for agriculture above this parliament, but plans to halve the £ 1.8 billion paid in direct payments by 2024, with the largest reductions in the highest payment classes.
The £ 900 million saved will go towards the implementation of an “Environmental Land Management” (ELM) program that will reward farmers for sustainable farming practices, the creation of new habitats and even the reuse of land. There will also be funding for an agricultural investment fund, which will provide grants for equipment and technology such as robots and new infrastructure such as water storage on farms, which will open from next year.
Environment Minister George Eustice will tell farmers and environmental groups, “We want farmers to have access to public money to help their businesses become more productive and sustainable, while taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare and deliver climate change results on the land that is manage them.
“Instead of the prescriptive, top-down rules of the EU era, we want to support the choices farmers and land managers make. If we work together to get this right, the rest of the world will want to follow our lead in ten years. “
Officials want the new scheme to be more flexible than initiatives under the EU’s common agricultural policy, in which farmers complained about inspectors measuring field margins with tape measures and penalizing them if they were a few inches apart.
Steps will also be taken to simplify grant schemes as they go ahead, and efforts to cut red tape and design a more targeted regulatory system, the government said.
A national pilot for the new environmental program will start at the end of 2021, involving up to 5,500 farmers over a three-year period, with plans to roll out the entire program by the end of 2024.
Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said the ELM plan had the potential to be “a truly industry-leading policy,” but the transition was risky.
“Many farmers will find it difficult to see past the drastic cuts to the basic payment scheme that will start next year. The average family farm will cut more than 50 percent before the new schemes are fully available in 2024. “
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “It is a high risk to expect farmers to run viable, expensive farm businesses, continue to produce food and increase their environmental impact, while phasing out existing aid and without a full replacement program. for almost three years and a very high demand.
“There are also many uncertainties during this policy transition, not least new trade arrangements following the exit of the transition period, as well as the national recovery from Covid-19 and the global challenge of climate change. In addition, the long-running price war in the British retail sector often leaves agriculture and cultivation in a crossfire. “