DEFRA has recently published its consultation document on the future of agricultural policy in England after we leave the EU. The document is entitled, “Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit” and this title gives a clear indication of the direction of travel that is envisaged by government.
Within the document it is stated that, “we want a more dynamic, more self-reliant agriculture industry as we continue to compete internationally, supplying products of the highest standards to the domestic market and increasing exports. But, alongside this, we want a reformed agricultural and land management policy to deliver a better and richer environment in England.
“We will incentivise methods of farming that create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, better mitigate climate change and improve air quality by reducing agricultural emissions.”
The document is full of similar aspirations but is lacking in any real detail as to how the new agricultural policies and support payments will be implemented to achieve the government’s aspirations. Our concern is that the desire for increased efficiency and competitiveness may compete head on with many of the environmental goals government is looking to achieve.
Further, as little detail has been provided regarding the proposed new agricultural support system, other than it seems likely that all direct payments will be phased out by 2024, farmers are left feeling uncertain as to what is to come. This is particularly worrying for beef and sheep farmers where such direct payments currently represent their “profit” in most years.
So it appears the consultation document is strong on ambition but still short on detail other than the pledge to take away payments. We feel there does need to be a sensible transition phase to allow farmers to adapt to new domestic policies without leaving them exposed to increased competition from abroad and reduced support at home.
Until detail of the new support system is known uncertainty will remain and going forward if the new system is to be successful in guiding farming businesses to achieve the government’s goals, then there will need to be some “profit” built into the payments otherwise there will be no incentive to take up the environmental options. This could be counterproductive if as a result farmers are forced to go all out for efficiency and increased production as the only viable means of economic survival.
If you are a farmer or landowner and are going to read and respond to one consultation paper in your lifetime, this is probably the one for you. It is your chance to make your views known about the emerging agricultural policy in England which will forge the future for the next generation of farmers. The document can be found at here.
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