Support for farmers will be simplified under plans announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove today, with the country’s decision to leave the EU providing a once in a lifetime opportunity to refocus how we support farmers and landowners.
Speaking at the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA) annual Rural Business Conference, the Secretary of State set out how Defra will make practical and pragmatic changes to existing farm support systems, streamlining the process to free up farmers to focus on what they do best.
Speaking after the conference, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Today I have set out plans to improve our current schemes, starting with simplifying support for farmers to protect and enhance our landscapes and countryside.
“But these measures are just the beginning – the first steps towards a simplified system of support. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working closely with our farmers to make sure we listen to what they want as we design a new approach and realise our vision for the future of UK food and farming outside the EU.
“Acknowledging the daily challenge farmers face within the EU’s burdensome Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Secretary of State said the current system of farm support is inefficient, ineffective, inequitable, and environmentally harmful. He outlined the need to change the way we invest in our countryside so farmers can more readily access support to protect wildlife, enhance the environment and improve land use.
As a first step, the Environment Secretary announced simplifications to the Countryside Stewardship scheme through the creation of four new streamlined offers which will launch in January next year. These new offers will have a much simpler application process – half as much paperwork as before – so it will be easier for farmers and land managers to apply and deliver environmental benefits on their land. Further details on this will be shared later this week.
CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “Leaving the EU will be a defining moment for farming. Farmers will not have the luxury of being able to carry on doing the same thing year-in-year-out as they have done before.
“Farmers and landowners want to continue providing the country with high quality, affordable food while protecting the environment and supporting wildlife. We welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to streamlining and focusing support into the areas most needed, and we look forward to working with him to drive up participation in crucial schemes to protect and enhance landscapes and the environment.
“It will soon be time for every landowning farmer to make choices about whether their land is delivering the best income opportunities, whether they need to farm differently, or use the land for other purposes.
“Farming is vital to our future prosperity as a nation. Producing enough high-quality food is our overriding purpose, but we have to be smart. Technology and scientific advances allow us to farm in new ways, to examine closely field by field where our land is and is not productive, to use chemicals more efficiently and manage breeding and welfare better than ever before.”
The CLA today publishes its Redefining Farming report, exploring how landowning farm businesses are adapting for the future.
Tim Breitmeyer added: “Government policy will play a major role in how the farming sector harnesses the opportunities of Brexit. Exiting the Common Agricultural Policy is an opportunity to direct more investment into making farming more productive and profitable. It is also a chance to transform the business opportunities for farmers and landowners to derive a fair income for vital work that benefits the public, from addressing climate change and encouraging biodiversity to managing the landscape.”