Government's Food, Farming and Environment plans lack necessary detail
The Government plans to leave the European Common Agricultural Policy. This is expected to involve withdrawing the current land-based payments to farmers, and creating a new system which supports methods of farming that create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, better mitigate climate change and improve air quality.
We've outlined five key actions the Government should take to improve these plans.
For 45 years the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has provided financial support to farmers through Direct Payments.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plans to phase out Direct Payments to farmers and landowners in favour of creating:
"a more dynamic, more self-reliant agriculture industry"
We launched an inquiry to look at the potential impacts of these changes and what the future of farming might look like. During our inquiry we heard from farmers, economists, environmentalists and academics on their analyses of the proposals.
AGRICULTURE ACCOUNTS FOR OVER 70% OF LAND USE IN THE UK, AND HAS A MAJOR INFLUENCE ON OUR ENVIRONMENT.
5 KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
We found that the impact of withdrawing support will vary by sector as the economics of each are so different.
We recommend the Government produce a thorough assessment of all of the sectors involved in the withdrawal of Direct Payments. This will allow Defra to better target the additional support that will be required.
We heard from the Minister that there have been minimal discussions between Defra and the Treasury over the future funding of the new agricultural policy.
We advise the Government to commit to fully fund the future agricultural policy and ring-fence the funds that are released from the withdrawal of Direct Payments to fund the rural economy and the environment.
Defra plans to create a new environmental land management system which will deliver the new 'public money for public goods' model. However the consultation paper does not make clear how this will be coordinated and delivered.
Given past performance of delivering rural payments and stewardship schemes, we urge the Government to undertake an assessment of what additional skills and resources this body will require.
The consultation indicates that, once the UK leaves the EU and the CAP, there will be a period of "agricultural transition" but it does not make clear how long this transition will last.
We recommend that the Government confirms as soon as possible the timing and length of the "agricultural transition" period that gives farm businesses a reasonable time to plan and adapt.
Ensuring an effective minimum baseline of regulation will be vital to delivering the Government's proposals to use public money to support public goods.
Following EU exit, the Government must not allow a 'race to the bottom' in standards when moving towards self-regulation and potential de-regulation.