Landowners’ leaders slam plans to cut subsidies for biggest farmers
- Credit: Andrew Hendry Photographer
Landowners’ leaders expressed disappointment as the government proposed “sudden and dramatic” cuts to the farm subsidy for the country’s biggest farmers with the launch of a consultation on future farm policy.
The government said the ‘public money for public goods’ approach it proposed could free up £150m in the first year of an agricultural transition period by cutting direct payments to the largest landowners.
Environment secretary Michael Gove wants to see money redirected from direct payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), based on the amount of land farmed, to a new system of paying farmers for enhancing the environment and investing in sustainable food production.
But Essex farmer and Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Tim Breitmeyer said while the industry was “up for change”, “no business, no matter how wealthy its owners are perceived to be, should face sudden and dramatic cuts”.
“We can make our industry more productive and more profitable and we can deliver world-leading standards in animal welfare and environmental protection. But to do this we need certainty and time to plan. That is what we were promised and instead we have open questions, few decisions and no answers,” he said.
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National Farmers’ Union eastern region director Robert Sheasby said it was a the start of a conversation, not a conclusion.
The government said it was committed to the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this parliament in 2022, and that an ‘agricultural transition’ lasting a number of years beyond the implementation period, would mean direct payments would continue, and would provide stability and certainty for farmers as they prepare for the new system.
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“We have a historic opportunity to deliver a farming policy which works for the whole industry,” said Mr Gove. “We are asking for the views of those who will be affected to make sure we get this right.”
Mr Sheasby said: “It’s vital for farmers, the countryside and the public that we make the right decisions now - decisions that will shape the future of food production and environmental protection outside of the European Union for many years to come.”
From April, the NFU will be holding a meeting in every county in East Anglia with advisers from its Brexit team.