The NFU has welcomed Michael Gove’s announcement of a new domestic agricultural policy to replace the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy after Brexit.
In his speech at the Oxford Farming Conference on 4 January, the Defra secretary laid out plans to replace the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme, under which farmers are paid according to land ownership, with a new environment-focused subsidies system.
Gove told delegates farmers would be rewarded for "public goods", such as planting wildflower meadows and improving water quality, and he said the current payment system was “unjust, inefficient and drives perverse outcomes”.
Under Defra’s new plans, sudsidies will be guaranteed at current EU levels until the 2022 election. And from 2024, after a five-year transitional period post-Brexit, a new system will be introduced to replace current EU payments, which are worth £3 billion a year.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said Gove’s speech was a positive signal for the farming industry.
"I was pleased to hear the secretary of state talking about the need to invest in technology, skills and rural resilience – all of which he says are public goods.
"Michael Gove also spoke about the importance of delivering benefits for the environment, something that farmers already advocate and perform highly on.”
He added: “A transition period that allows time to prepare properly for the introduction of a new agricultural policy is also welcome.”
This will allow time to make an assessment on the impact of Brexit, he said – “on trade in the raw ingredients farmers produce; on farm businesses’ access to a competent and reliable workforce; and on the regulatory environment in which they operate.”
According to FarmingUK, the Liberal Democrats’ Defra spokesperson Tim Farron was far less positive about Gove’s propsoals.
The former party leader said it was insulting to British farmers to imply that farm payments are a reward for inefficiency.
"It shows he has no understanding of the reality of farming in this country," he said.
"British farmers are some of the most efficient and dynamic in the world. Farm payments compensate for the fact that the market is broken, because supermarkets and processors dominate the industry and exploit farmers.”
Farron added: "Gove’s announcement also does nothing to address the impending tariff catastrophe facing farmers once we leave the single market."