Under the plan, traditional subsidies will be reduced from next year and payments to protect nature will be introduced.
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The changes to agricultural policy after Brexit, which will be brought in over seven years up to 2028, are being seen as the most significant change to farming and land management for England in more than 50 years.
The Government has committed to maintaining the £2.4 billion per year for farming over this parliament, but plans to halve the £1.8 billion paid in direct payments by 2024, with the biggest reductions in the highest payment bands.
The £900 million saved will go towards introducing an “environmental land management” (ELM) scheme which will reward farmers for sustainable farming practices, creating new habitats and even rewilding land.
There will also be funding for a farming investment fund, which will offer grants for equipment and technology such as robots and new infrastructure such as water storage on farms, and which will open from next year.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government was “taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare, and deliver climate change outcomes on the land they manage”.
Reaction to the announcement
Environmental campaigners broadly welcomed the change although some said the measures didn’t go far enough.
“We are deeply worried that …the Government announcement simply cannot deliver the promise that nature will be in a better state. We urge the Government to move faster to reverse nature’s decline,” said Craig Bennett, head of the Wildlife Trusts.
Meanwhile, farmers are concerned they will be worse off in the short term, at a time when many are already struggling.
“Many farmers will find it hard to see past the drastic cuts to the Basic Payment Scheme [of direct payments], that begin next year. The average family farm will see cuts of over 50 per cent before the new schemes are fully available in 2024,” said Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association, which represents many farmers.
“The Government has announced the Sustainable Farming Incentive to help bridge the gap, but with only a month to go before the transition phase begins we have no details whatsoever about how this will work on the ground and the level of investment it will provide.”