Farming groups expressed concerns over reports suggesting Liz Truss could scrap a long-awaited agricultural reform, which the Government had promis
Farming groups expressed concerns over reports suggesting Liz Truss could scrap a long-awaited agricultural reform, which the Government had promised post-Brexit. Instead, the Government is considering returning to a type of policy similar to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which was widely criticised for its failures.
British farmers argued the police promoted bad agricultural practices, decreased productivity and kept farmers further away from achieving net-zero goals. Farmers argued getting rid of the CAP was an “explicit promise” made as one of the benefits of Brexit.
Sources from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told the Guardian the Government body is considering a scheme similar to CAP, where landowners are paid an annual set sum for every acre of land they own.
According to an EU Commission report, about 64 percent of the budget of the basic payment scheme as part of the CAP is delivered to 20 percent of the farm landowners who own large-scale farms and who already tend to be more massively profitable than smaller farmers.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance warned that it would be “grave mistake for the government to backtrack” on its plans to deliver a “green Brexit” and instead return to an often criticised EU-style system.
He said: “The Conservatives promised to reform farming to support farmers to cut carbon and create healthy natural habitats. Polls show that voters are still hugely supportive of these plans. Delaying or watering down the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) would result in more polluted rivers, poorer air quality and dwindling wildlife.
“We can’t go back to the EU-style system that favoured wealthy landowners and made us pay three times for our food: once at the till, again in higher taxes and finally to clean up the pollution from unsustainable farming.”
Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge and shadow farming minister, slammed the considered U-turn as a “complete betrayal of something that they said would be one of the key benefits of Brexit”, particularly since many farmers had already changed how they use their land based on the ELMS system.
Ben Goldsmith, a former Defra board member, told the Guardian: “There are rumours that the government is considering resuscitating an old subsidy scheme in which landowners across the country will be paid per acre of land that they own, no matter how well they care for it. In 2022 – surely not.
“A system governed by the principle of public money (only) for public environmental good is a much better idea than unconditional subsidies for landowners. Let’s hope the government sticks to the course.”
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Previously, Mr Benton added: “For the last 50 years CAP paid farmers on low-productivity land to grow more and all it did was impoverish hardworking upland farmers.
“The UK’s approach of using Landscape Recovery and Local Nature Recovery to help farmers on land with lower productivity make money by restoring nature and storing carbon is absolutely the right approach.”
According to Mr Benton, powerful farming lobbies in France are a major reason why the EU’s CAP has not helped many farmers. He said: “There have been a lot of reforms to the CAP, but the shorthand for it is that it all has to do with national interests and European budgets work.
“It’s quite complicated but essentially French farmers are very effective at influencing the budget for farm subsidies, and saying that ‘we need the CAP subsidies to retain our position globally and support the character of the French countryside.’
He added: “That created a lot of perversions, including this point about already very affluent farmers receiving public money for nothing really, which isn’t a very good use of tax money.
“[The French farming lobby] is the group that benefits most from this system and is the most politically effective at it.
A Defra spokesperson did not deny the change was to take place and told the Guardian: “To boost the rural economy, food production and our food security, we will continue to support farmers and land managers by reviewing farm regulation, boosting investment and innovation in the sector.”