The post-Brexit farm subsidy scheme is not better than the previous EU model and big landowners still receive unfair advantages.
Minette Batters, the NFU president who will step down in February, has criticized the post- EU Brexit agriculture policy. This policy is overseen by seven different environmental secretaries, since the UK left the EU in 2016.
The EU’s subsidy program, which is part of its Common Agricultural Policy, has been criticized for unfairly benefiting large landowners.
Brexit was seen by many as a chance to overhaul the payment system. The Environmental Land Management schemes in England have been slow to implement and criticised as placing too much emphasis of the environment over food production.
“At the moment, the focus is on producing a crop that will benefit the environment rather than food. . . “I think it’s going be hard, especially with the current cost of living crisis,” Batters said. He added that consumers are more concerned than ever before about food security.
She then criticised the government for not building a more fair system. “Large landowners living off of the state will not wash in the future,” said Batters.
The new scheme is different from the EU’s system because it awards funding in exchange for actions that promote the environment — “public money to public goods”. However, the system remains based on area. Land is required to be eligible for the scheme. The more land that a farmer owns, the more money they can secure.
Many farmers who had been reliant on subsidies are now receiving lower payments. The Sustainable Farming Incentives, the ELM’s flagship payment, has not been well-received. Only a small fraction of the eligible 82,000 farmers have signed up.
The EU subsidies are referred to as “Basic Payment Scheme”. Batters, the president of the EU, will step down in February, after five years. “Whether you liked or disliked it, it was the only option for us to manage risk.”
Farmers will receive smaller amounts yearly between 2021 and 2027. The new schemes aim to reward farmers who restore the environment and adopt sustainable farming practices, such as soil management.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow environment secretary said that Labour wouldn’t “rip it all up and start over”, but that they could improve on the current system.
He said that landowners and farm owners who were previously compensated should continue to receive compensation in order to incentivize them to behave a certain way.
Country Land and Business Association (which represents landowners and rural business) has expressed more support for ELMs but said that “doom talk” is discouraging farmers from signing up.
Victoria Vyvyan said, “For the first time in forty years we have brought agriculture home,” referring to UK’s withdrawal from EU Common Agricultural Policy. It’s going to be difficult, and complex. . . But the general direction of travel is positive and productive.”
The NFU called on all political parties to set domestic production targets ahead of the general elections to provide security for farmers struggling with high production cost and “the most significant change in agricultural policy since 1947”.
The group suggested that the government should establish and report food production goals similar to the way they do for environmental targets.They also stated that food is a top priority to voters heading into the next elections.
The group surveyed 2,135 adults from England and Wales.They wanted to know if people considered food production targets to be as important as, or more important than, environmental targets.
“Farmers are going to vote for the person who has a credible food production plan,” said Batters.