Defra Secretary of State, George Eustice, has promised English farmers an “evolution, not an overnight revolution” in the move towards post-Brexit agricultural policy.
Speaking at an Oxford Farming Conference webinar yesterday, Mr Eustice outlined the UK Government’s plans for a new farm support scheme in England to replace Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (Cap).
“We need to design a policy that is not only right for those that are the custodians of the countryside today, but is also right for those who will follow in their footsteps tomorrow,” said Mr Eustice.
He said the new system will be phased in over seven years, with the ultimate aim of ensuring English farmers can sustainably produce healthy food profitably without subsidy by 2028.
Direct subsidy payments will be phased out over this seven-year period, starting with a 5% reduction in 2021, and the money released will be used to fund new grants and schemes to boost farmers’ productivity and reward environmental improvements.
“We want farmers to access public money to help their businesses become more productive and sustainable, while taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare, and deliver climate change outcomes on the land they manage,” Mr Eustice said.
He said new schemes, including the Environmental Land Management Scheme (Elms), will be introduced from 2024 onwards.
Elms will focus on three areas – a sustainable farming incentive, local nature recovery and landscape recovery.
The sustainable farming incentive will support farmers in managing their land in a more sustainable way, such as actions to improve soil health, hedgerows and integrated pest management (IPM) techniques.
Local nature recovery will pay for actions such as creating, managing or restoring habitats, natural flood management and species management, while landscape recovery will provide support for projects such as woodland creation and peatland restoration.
There will also be funding for a farming investment fund, which will offer grants for equipment and technology such as robots and new infrastructure such as water storage on farms, and which will open from next year.
A resilience programme will help those most affected by the phasing out of direct payments to help farmers plan and manage their businesses, and there will be a consultation on lump sums for those who want to exit the sector.