Farm support schemes across the four regions of the UK are heading in opposite directions, delegates at an online Oxford Farming Conference were told on Thursday.
Agriculture is a devolved matter in the UK, so it is up to ministers in devolved governments to set policies that will replace the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme in each region.
The four ministers who are responsible for agriculture across the UK spoke at the online Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday.
Environment secretary and Conservative MP George Eustice reiterated that the new environmental land management scheme in England will be mainly focused on paying farmers for environmental measures.
The new scheme is based on the idea of “public money for public goods”, where food is not deemed a public good and government money is therefore not used in direct support for food production.
Up north, Scotland’s rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has a very different idea.
“We do not believe that food production can be simply left to the market,” the Scottish National Party politician said during his address at the conference.
Ewing acknowledged that environmental measures are needed on Scottish farms, but he added: “It should not be at the expense of food production, both objectives can be achieved.”
Welsh minister for environment Lesley Griffiths gave an overview of her plans for the sustainable farming scheme.
“I want to continue to help Welsh farmers thrive, produce sustainable food and contribute to tackle the climate emergency,” she said.
The Labour politician said the new scheme would place a “profit value on environmental outcomes that farmers already deliver”.
Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots made clear that an area-based payment would be used as a resilience payment for farmers, albeit at lower levels than the current Basic Payment Scheme.
The DUP politician said that coupled payments for the likes of suckler cows and breeding ewes would be introduced and extra payments would be available for additional environmental measures.
“I want to design support schemes that provide opportunities for all Northern Ireland farmers. Schemes and support are needed to help farmers develop their business, no matter where they farm,” Poots said.
Read more in next week's Northern Ireland edition of the Irish Farmers Journal and online at www.ifj.ie/ni.