Agriculture Bill Seeks To Deliver A Green Brexit

On 12th September, the Government introduced a new Agriculture Bill, setting out the framework for agricultural policy once we leave the European Union.

Here David Morley, Head of Conservation & Environment at H&H Land and Property, gives his thoughts on this new bill:

David Morley, Head of Conservation & Environment at H&H Land and Property

David Morley, Head of Conservation & Environment at H&H Land and Property

“The Government is intending to replace the current system of direct payments with a scheme that offers “public money for public goods”. This means paying land managers to deliver such things as:

  • water quality

  • improved soil health

  • attractive landscapes

  • increased biodiversity

  • higher animal welfare standards

  • public access to the countryside

  • flood risk mitigation

The timeline for making these changes has been set between 2019 and 2027, covering both direct payments and a new environmental land management scheme.

In terms of direct payments, there will be little change to those currently made through the Basic Payment Scheme, in 2019 and 2020. However, these payments will be phased out from 2021 onwards, with the final payments being made in 2027. Reductions will ultimately affect all claimants, but the highest claims will probably see the biggest reductions initially.

During this transitional phase, there is the suggestion that payments will no longer be directly linked to actually farming the land, enabling claimants to reduce their land holding or leave farming altogether but still be eligible for the payments. While the Government claims this will give greater flexibility in freeing up land for new schemes and changing farming business structures, it seems a strange decision to allow a greater proportion of agricultural subsidies to be paid to those not involved in actively managing the land. Another implication is that payments could no longer be linked to delivering greening or cross-compliance, which some may see as positive.

The money saved from direct payments will go to fund the development and piloting of a new Environmental Land Management Scheme, which will aim to deliver the public goods mentioned above. Anticipated to be fully operational by 2025, the scheme will be piloted extensively in the years before that.

The feasibility of extending Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements, that expire between 2019 and 2024, is being actively explored.

The principle of paying land managers to deliver a range of public benefits will offer great opportunities for many farmers, especially those in areas of the country that have the most potential to deliver public goods, such as the uplands. This contrasts with the current Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which offers relatively poor payment rates in the uplands and can often be inaccessible to upland farmers.

The Government has indicated its desire to pay farmers for public goods on the basis of the benefit they deliver to society, rather than the cost to the farmer of delivery, as has been the case under the EU Common Agricultural Policy.

It is hoped that this will better recognise the wide range benefits that farmers produce for society, over and above food production, and reward them properly for delivering them.”

H&H Land and Property offer and extensive range of professional services including support with agricultural and woodland grants and schemes, estate management, landlord and tenant, site acquisition and development, common land and conservation, renewables and woodland management.

HH Land

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