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Thursday, December 9, 2021

UK unveils post-Brexit plan to phase out current farm subsidies

The U.K. will on Monday unveil its plan to phase out existing subsidies to farmers in England once the Brexit transition period ends.

Britain has pledged to bring in a new scheme to support landowners, based on whether their land is used to promote and protect the environment, to replace the “basic payments scheme” under EU Common Agricultural Policy.

Farming Secretary George Eustice will set out more detail on the phasing out of the existing regime in a government document published Monday.

The transition will last seven years, with the first reduction in usual payments from 2021. The government has insisted the same budget will be available for farmers throughout the current parliament, although the full operation of the new regime will be worked out during the first years.

In a speech to farmers and environmental groups, Eustice will say farmers should access public cash “to help their businesses become more productive and sustainable, whilst taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare, and deliver climate change outcomes on the land they manage.”

The new “environmental land management scheme” will award cash for environmental efforts such as improved soil health, creating natural flood barriers and species management, and restoring landscapes such as woodland and peatland.

Farmers were worried the new regime would not encourage increased production of farmed goods. But the government said the phasing out of the old system would free up new cash to boost productivity.

Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers Union, welcomed the pledge about productivity, but said it was “high risk” to phase out existing support without a complete replacement scheme in place.

“These payments have been a lifeline for many farmers, especially when prices or growing conditions have been volatile, and will be very difficult to replace in the first four years of this transition,” she said.

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