Plan to phase out farm payments

A new system of payments aims to improve the rural environment and delivery of public goods.

The government has unveiled plans to abolish farm subsidies in England and replace them with a new system of payments for environment and other public goods.

Defra said £150m could be freed up in the first year – but the intention is that the new system would be phased in over a number of years and possibly over a decade.

    Rural resilience

Funding could also support the resilience of rural and upland communities.

Other public goods which could be supported include investment in technology and skills to improve productivity and providing public access to farmland and the countryside.

In line with its manifesto commitment, the government said it would continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022.

During the implementation period, direct payments would continue, providing stability and certainty for farmers as they prepare for the new system.

At the same time, however, reductions to direct payments to the largest landowners first could free up around £150 million in the first year of the agricultural transition period.

    Consultation launch

Launching a consultation paper on the proposals, Defra secretary Michael Gove said the money could be used to deliver environmental enhancement and other public goods.

“We are asking for the views of those who will be affected to make sure we get this right so any future schemes reflect the reality of life for famers and food producers,” he said.

“The proposals in this paper set out a range of possible paths to a brighter future for farming.

“They are the beginning of a conversation, not a conclusion and we want everyone who cares about the food we eat and the environment around us to contribute.”

The consultation was an opportunity for farmers to be more central to government thinking than any time for fifty years as the UK left the EU, said Mr Gove.

It seeks views on options for how to gradually phase out direct payments, starting with the largest landowners, whilst developing a new environmental land management scheme.

    Public goods

It also seeks views on the range of public goods that could qualify for government funding.

New business models and incentives could encourage the industry to invest in innovation and new technologies to increase their profitability – although there are few details on this.

Farm payments in 2019 will follow the existing model, said Defra.

In the meantime, the government has pledged to simplify applications for farmers wishing to enter existing schemes to provide environmental benefits such as Countryside Stewardship.

The consultation will run for ten weeks, closing on 8 May 2018.

For full details, visit The future for Food, Farming and the Environment consultation website.


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