UK farmers given ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to shape future
A Government consultation, ‘Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit’, launched this week, has been welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation as a first step in highlighting some of the challenges the food sector faces.
Britain’s Environment Secretary has told farmers, landowners and food producers that a consultation opened this week will give them a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to shape the future of English farming and the environment.
Michael Gove launched a consultation on a range of proposals his department, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), is putting forward regarding payments to farmers post-Brexit.
The Government is suggesting money should be redirected from direct payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which are based on the amount of land farmed, to a new system of paying farmers “public money for public goods” – principally their work to enhance the environment and invest in sustainable food production.
Other public goods which it said could be supported include investment in technology and skills to improve productivity, providing public access to farmland and the countryside, enhanced welfare standards for livestock and measures to support the resilience of rural and upland communities.
Mr Gove said: “As we leave the EU, we have a historic opportunity to deliver a farming policy which works for the whole industry.
“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 farmers and food producers.
“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.”
Among the range of proposals put forward by the consultation, ‘Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit’, the Government is seeking views on:
- Options for how to gradually phase out direct payments, starting with the largest landowners, whilst developing a new environmental land management scheme.
- The range of public goods that could qualify for government funding under the new schemes, such as high animal welfare standards, wildlife protection, public access, and new technologies.
- Measures to move away from heavy handed enforcement which penalises farmers for minor errors, including a more efficient inspection regime to uphold important environmental and animal welfare standards.
- New business models and incentives for industry to invest in innovation and new technologies to increase their profitability.
The consultation will run for ten weeks, closing on May 8, 2018.
Responding to the launch, a spokesman from the Food and Drink Federation said: “Sustainable food production must be at the heart of our new agricultural policy. UK manufacturers rely upon our farmers to provide them with a reliable source of raw materials and ingredients.
“[The] consultation document is a welcome first step, highlighting some of the shared challenges across the food chain – whether that’s how we encourage more science graduates into our sector or boost our exports performance.
“It is vital that future agricultural policy delivers for manufacturers, so we can continue to feed the nation in the way shoppers and consumers have come to enjoy and expect.
“In the immediacy, the ‘farm to fork’ supply chain requires certainty from Government, as our latest exports figures show, on future access to raw materials and key EU export markets.”