News, views, discussion and analysis of farming and food issues along the supply chain.
Support to improve farm animal health and welfare will be one of the main points of focus for farming in the UK as the country moves away from direct subsidies as it leaves the EU.
The move is one of the changes outlined in the UK government’s plans for the future of food and farming post-Brexit.
The new plans aim to deliver a better, fairer farming system in England and transform the way the government supports farmers.
The government says that the roadmap is the most significant change to farming and land management in 50 years.
It outlines changes that will come into force over a period of seven years to help farmers adapt and plan for the future.
Outside the EU and no longer bound by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the government says it will introduce a new system tailored to the interests of English farmers, centred on support that rewards farmers and land managers for sustainable farming practices.
The government says the changes will be designed to ensure that by 2028, farmers in England can sustainably produce healthy food profitably without subsidy, whilst taking steps to improve the environment, improve animal health and welfare and reduce carbon emissions.
However, the mov has raised concerns with British farmers.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union said: ““Defra has embraced many of the industry’s ideas for sustainable farming and food production in designing this new agricultural policy for England.
“Farming is changing and we look forward to working with Ministers and officials to co-create the schemes that will help farmers to improve productivity and animal welfare, encourage innovation and realise our ambition to produce increasingly climate-friendly food.
“However, the rate at which direct support reductions will take place, which we understand will not be applied in other parts of the UK, leaves English farmers with significant questions.
“These payments have been a lifeline for many farmers especially when prices or growing conditions have been volatile and will be very difficult to replace in the first four years of this transition. Can Ministers be sure that new schemes will be available at scale to deliver redirected BPS payments?” she said.
“Take livestock farmers for example, who we project will have lost between 60per cent and 80 per cent of their income by 2024 as a result of these reductions. What changes will Defra make to ensure that the new Environmental Land Management schemes offer rewards that provide a genuine income for their businesses while maintaining food production?
“These are the questions Defra needs to answer urgently, for every farming sector and every part of the country.
“Expecting farmers to run viable, high-cost farm businesses, continue to produce food and increase their environmental delivery, while phasing out existing support and without a complete replacement scheme for almost three years is high risk and a very big ask,” Ms Batters added.
“There are also many uncertainties during this policy transition, not least new trading arrangements after we leave the transition period, as well as the national recovery from COVID-19, and the global challenge of climate change. Moreover, the long-running price war in UK retail often sees farming and growing caught in the crossfire.
“So, Ministers must bear these challenges in mind and use the transition period to address abuses of market power which not only damage farm businesses but also consumer choice and availability.
“They must also be mindful of the impact sudden drops in income could have, including seriously jeopardising the viability of a farm business and causing knock-on impacts for domestic food production.
“As with any big policy change it is critically important to be clear on its economic impact. We would urge Defra to share this assessment as soon as possible, indeed this has been one of our key asks for the last four years.”
Next year marks the start of the transition where the UK will begin to move away from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) towards new policies that will be co-designed and tested together with farmers, land managers and experts, to ensure that the new systems work for them.
The ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’ document, published by the UK government, sets out more detail on the changes we are going to make, and what they will mean for farmers.
The key changes include:
In a speech to farmers and environmental groups at an Oxford Farming Conference OFCBitesize event, Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“We want farmers to access public money to help their businesses become more productive and sustainable, whilst taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare, and deliver climate change outcomes on the land they manage.
“Rather than the prescriptive, top down rules of the EU era, we want to support the choices that farmers and land managers take.
“If we work together to get this right, then a decade from now the rest of the world will want to follow our lead.
“While the roadmap provides a clear view on the changes coming through the transition, this will be followed by a period of engagement with farmers, land managers and other stakeholders to finalise the design and operation of the future system to ensure they work for everyone.
Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said: “This plan marks an historic shift in the way we manage our land, setting us on course toward the production of sustainable food at the same time as rising to the urgent task if halting and reversing the decline of Nature.
“More than two thirds of England is farmed and this plan paves the way for those who manage the land to produce healthy food alongside other vital benefits, such as carbon storage, clean water, reduced flood risk, thriving wildlife and beautiful landscapes for everyone to enjoy.
“At Natural England we look forward to working with this plan to breathe life into England’s Nature Recovery Network, including through the very exciting ambition to create large scale Landscape Recovery Areas.”
The new roadmap comes a few weeks after the government’s Agriculture Bill passed into law, providing the powers needed to incentivise farmers to make environmental choices and help them to make the most of the opportunities available outside of the EU.