My first punt at our future agriculture policy

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Ken Brockway, via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone says that the redesign of agriculture policy post-Brexit is a big opportunity. And so it is.

You can make this as complicated as you like, and it is complicated in reality, but let’s start by making it simple whilst not losing the gist of what it’s all about.

Currently we taxpayers ‘invest’ £3,000,000,000 per annum into farming – £3bn. Let’s say £2.4bn per annum is paid to farmers as income support and £0.6bn per annum is paid to farmers in return for being nice to the environment…

Here’s a plan for the future, each year:

  • give back £1bn to the taxpayer and The Treasury
  • pay £1bn to farmers as income support
  • increase environmental spending to £1bn

I’ll be coming back to this scheme during the week (and I’ll be coming back to Hen Harrier Day and our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting too, don’t you worry).

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9 Replies to “My first punt at our future agriculture policy”

  1. And of that £1b returned to the Treasury make sure that some of it is channelled into the Land Registry. That’s so we can be up-to-date as to exactly who owns what where.
    Another £0.4b for the environment? Fine, but that will mean yet more subsidies for wealthy landowners being paid to put back what they trashed in the first place – and we paid them to do that as well.
    Tax payers are sick and tired of all this.

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  2. Yes, let's be clear about what is necessary money for conservation and end glib support for all farming and land subsidy as environmental protection under slogans like "custodians of the countryside" when so much has been and is being lost. For all the benefits gained over the last twenty years we now can see it is not enough - far, far from it. It's time for a new order, a new form of respect for the land.

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  3. The National Trust recently set out its views on farm subsidies post-Brexit, which, rather to my surprise, I thought were wholly admirable. They set out 6 broad principles (slightly shortened by me):
    1. Public money must only pay for public goods. There will need to be a transition period but the basic income support payment should be removed.
    2. It should be unacceptable to harm nature but easy to help it. In the future, 100% of any public payment should be conditional on meeting higher standards of wildlife, soil and water stewardship.
    3. Nature should be abundant everywhere. The new system needs to support nature in the lowlands as well as the uplands.
    4. We need to drive better outcomes for nature. Nature needs joined up habitats on a landscape scale with subsidies implemented on a farm-by-farm basis.
    5. Farmers that deliver the most public benefit should get the most.
    6. We must invest in science, new technology and new markets that help nature and reward farmers for storing carbon, preventing floods and promoting biodiversity.
    The NT is a very large landowner and currently receives large sums in subsidy, making this initiative all the more impressive in my book.
    For perfection, I would add a 7th principle:
    7. No British taxpayers' money should go to land that is used primarily for the purpose of killing or harming animals for the main purpose of pleasure or recreation.
    It would be nice if the other main conservation NGOs could get behind and promote principles similar to these.
    There was a good article about this in the Guardian a few days ago:
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/04/national-trust-calls-for-complete-reform-of-british-farm-subsidies

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    1. Thanks for the link. Agree, the NT is doing a good job setting out its views post- Brexit and starting the debate. Well done the NT.

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    2. Blog by NT Director-General Helen Ghosh:https://ntplanning.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/after-cap-what-kind-of-countryside-do-we-want-to-see/

      Also picked up by Martin Harper's blog:
      http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2016/08/06/in-praise-of-the-national-trust-for-making-the-case-for-radical-reform-of-farming-policy.aspx

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  4. As a first attempt, a bit 20th C I'm afraid - agriculture is part of wider land use and rather than making further adjustments to the post1947 agricultural policy we need to go vack to looking at real21st Cvalues - as David Milliband tried to do in 2007, subsequently picked up by the Natural Capital Committees work which seems to have been as widely ignored by conservationists as by farmers.

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