Yesterday, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, addressed the Oxford Farming Conference and provided the clearest indication yet of the Government’s plans for farming subsidies after Brexit and the withdrawal from the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Brodies LLP are proud to be one of the sponsors of this event, and our Clive Phillips also attended.
The Environment Secretary announced that he wants to develop a new method of providing financial support for farmers which moves away from subsidies for inefficiency, as he sees it, to public money for public goods. Public goods has as a key priority the environment, but also technology and skills alongside infrastructure, public access and rural resilience. He argued that we need to build natural capital thinking into the approach towards all land use and management to develop a truly sustainable future for the countryside.
It was confirmed that the Government would guarantee the current farming subsidies until 2022 and the Environment Secretary said he envisaged farm payments continuing for five years from 2019, i.e. to 2024. It was not entirely clear what the actual schemes would look like during that transitional phase. Throughout his speech he talked of UK farmers, making no distinction between the devolved administrations.
In a statement following the speech, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, has said that it “leaves far too many questions unanswered for any comfort to be taken” and that it excluded a variety of vital support schemes. In particular he highlighted the need for support for hill farmers to be maintained through the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme.
Industry voices have already voiced concerns about the tension between efficient production and environmental enhancement, and have indicated that the viability of the proposals is dependent on all stakeholders buying into them.
The announcement has provided some clarity on the Government’s plans for the new farming subsidy scheme, and has set a time frame for the changes which will provide some certainty for landowners and managers who are looking to create a framework for the future management and direction of their farm businesses.
However, more details of the regime, and the transition period in particular will be welcome, and these should be provided when the UK Government publishes its agricultural plans in the Spring, following a consultation.
We will be following the progress of the new policy and providing comments in future blog posts and articles.