Report calls for UK farming policy overhaul

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Fred Searle


Report calls for UK farming policy overhaul

Three-pronged scheme based on sustainable practices should replace CAP post-Brexit, says Sustain advocacy group

Report calls for UK farming policy overhaul

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A report is calling for the next government to replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a new three-pronged payment scheme when Britain leaves the EU.

Entitled ‘Beyond 2020: New farm policy’, the policy proposals from food and farming lobby group Sustain call for a new deal for farmers called ‘Land Management Support’ that would "fix" our "broken" food and farming system.

Based on a well-regulated market for sustainable, resilient and environmentally-friendly farming, the three pillars of the proposed new scheme are: a points-based scheme that delivers public good outcomes; a systematic scheme for organic farmers; and a wider whole-farm payment scheme.

Further strands of the new payment system would be aimed at supporting agro-forestry, horticulture, new farmers and succession planning, and extra capital and short-term infrastructure support would be given to small busineses.

The report’s author Vicki Hird wrote: “We know our farm and food system is broken: from adverse public health impacts, lost farmland wildlife and diversity, to farm income crises, animal health and welfare problems, rapid decline in smaller and family farms, and damage to the global environment.

“As we leave today’s European designed system, so we should now take the chance to fix it.”

The new structure assumes that the government would phase out the current system of direct payments under CAP and replace it with an outcome-based contract between the farmer and the UK government.

Subsidy support would be available to all farmers and direct land managers with more than 1 hectare of land and payments would be made for specific outcomes such as carbon reduction, flood management, and soil protection.

As mentioned, there would also be an expanded version of the current system for organic conversion and maintenance payments, as well as a whole-farm payment scheme based on sustainability standards.

The report also argues there is a strong case for “tapering or capping” payments, with measures to avoid legal dodges. “This would recognise the economies of scale for larger businesses and ensure that the money is not swallowed up by the largest farmers and land managers,” according to Sustain.

The new farm and land use policy would also include ongoing support for farming and sustainable land management “to ensure sustainable land use and protection of our environment, food security, rural economy, the diversity of size and type of farms and a ladder for those who want to enter this industry.”

Further commitments would be made to reduce the adverse impact of UK agricultural policy on supply chains in the global south, and to forge trade deals that allow countries to maintain and enhance quality and labour standards.

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