Tuesday, December 11, 2018

No guarantee on farm funding after Brexit

October 1, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

The government has refused to say whether it will maintain financial support for agriculture at current levels after direct payments are phased out – despite previous pledges that farmers will be no worse off after the UK leaves the European Union.

Published last month, the government’s Agriculture Bill confirms plans to abolish direct payments by 2027. Payments will be made largely on the basis same as now in 2019 and 2020 before Defra starts to phase them out from 2021.

At the same time, a new system of “public money for public goods” will be phased in – based on rewarding farmers who undertake environmental measures. But there no are guarantees that funding under the new scheme will fully match the amount of money lost.

Funding undecided

That’s because funding for agriculture is a matter for the Treasury rather than for Defra. aAnd the amount of money allocated to farming will not be decided until the spending review covering the years after 2022.

Defra secretary Michael Gove said farmers would be supported over the seven year transition period as the UK left the EU. But he stopped short of saying how much money public money would be available for farming after direct payments are phased out.

“The introduction of the Agriculture Bill is an historic moment as we leave the EU and move towards a brighter future for farming. After nearly 50 years of being tied to burdensome and outdated EU rules, we have an opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit.

“This Bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations. Critically, we will also provide the smooth and gradual transition that farmers and land managers need to plan ahead.”

But NFU president Minette Batters said the Bill placed too much emphasis on the environment at the expense of farming. A future agricultural policy that ignored food production would be damaging for farmers and the public alike, she warned.

Transition proposals

Ms Batters added: “We will look closely at the government’s proposals for a seven year transition period, during which direct payments will be phased-out, to ensure we’re satisfied that this will be sufficient.

“In particular, the Bill must provide government with the powers to pause the process if it is proving unmanageable for farmers, and if our domestic food supply and food security are under threat.”

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