Direct payments to UK farmers will be maintained during a Brexit transition period, DEFRA secretary Michael Gove told the Oxford Farming Conference in a keynote speech this morning. This goes further than previous promises that the value of the farm subsidies budget coming from the EU would be matched to the end of the current UK Parliament in 2022.
The UK will formally leave the EU in March of 2019 but Westminster anticipates that an implementation or transition period will be agreed with the EU lasting for around another two years.
“We have guaranteed that the amount we allocate to farming support - in cash terms - will be protected throughout and beyond this period right up until the end of this Parliament in 2022,” Gove said. “We will pay the 2019 BPS scheme on the same basis as we do now. After the implementation period, this transitional payment could be paid to the recipient without the need to comply with all the onerous existing cross-compliance rules and procedures.”
After that transition, he said the UK government will replace BPS with a system of public money for public goods. Gove called on farmers to get involved with developing this system.
“The ways in which we provide financial support to farmers have been far too bureaucratic – not helped by the ludicrous rules and red tape of the CAP that Defra must try to enforce,” he said “Related to the whole question of how we allocate support, we need to change our approach to inspection.We inspect too often, too ineffectively and in far too many cases for the wrong things.”
Gove’s plan is to reduce the number of farm inspections and move them to a more risk based approach. He outlined four areas in which he wants to drive change in agriculture:
1. Develop a coherent policy on food - integrating the needs of agriculture businesses, other enterprises, consumers, public health and the environment
2. Give farmers the tools to adapt to the future
3. Develop a new method of providing financial support for farmers which moves away from subsidies for inefficiency to public money for public goods
4. Build natural capital thinking into the UK’s approach towards land use and management
“I recognise the heart of almost all farming businesses is food production,” he said. “But I believe it’s critical as we think of food production and the role of farming in the future that we develop policy which looks at the food-chain as a whole, from farm to fork, and we also recognise the economic, health and environmental forces shaping the future of food.”
Food and Drink is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector and one of its fastest growing with an increase of 8% in exports to the EU and 10% in exports outside the EU in the first three quarters of last year.
Gove said that the UK should develop a new food labelling system. This would go beyond Red Tractor to create a single, scaled measure of how a farmer performs against a “sensible basket of indicators, taking into account such things as soil health, control of pollution, contribute to water quality as well as animal welfare.”
Farmers bound by CAP beyond Brexit
UK to get most of EU lamb imports