The government will scrap the European Union’s (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after Brexit and instead reward farmers for being “environmentally friendly”.
However, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, also promised to guarantee subsidies paid out to farmers according to the CAP until the 2022 election.
In England at least, there would then be a “transitional period” for farms to adjust after that.
In a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, Mr. Gove slammed the “fundamentally flawed” CAP system that was designed for “another world” after the war, “like so many aspects of the EU”.
He argued the subsidy policy produced a “perverse” outcome, rewarding well off farms and “mathematically-precise field margins” instead of “ecologically healthy landscapes”.
“I want to develop a new method of providing financial support for farmers which moves away from subsidies for inefficiency to public money for public goods,” he added.
Our President Meurig Raymond tells @SkyNews he was delighted to hear @michaelgove committing to a national food plan and that @DefraGovUK are going to champion British food & farming. pic.twitter.com/iwxsEjgW8z
— National Farmers Union (@NFUtweets) January 4, 2018
The new system, he said, will encourage farmers to create natural habitats on their land, rather than incentivise them to plough over them and keep land open and unused, as critics say the CAP does.
“Enhancing our natural environment is a vital mission for this Government,” Mr. Gove continued.
“We are committed to ensuring we leave the environment in a better condition than we found it. And leaving the European Union allows us to deliver the policies required to achieve that – to deliver a green Brexit.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) “welcomed” Mr. Gove’s announcements including the transition period, whilst insisting farmers already work hard to protect the environment.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said in a statement: “A transition period that allows time to prepare properly for the introduction of a new agricultural policy is also welcome, during which an assessment can be made of the impact of Brexit on UK farming…”
He added: “With adequate time to prepare, we can ensure that the introduction of an ambitious new policy framework, one that is suited to the needs of the farming industry and the expectations of the UK public, is managed properly and delivered successfully.”