Defra proposes directing farm payments towards ‘public goods’
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) announced it is giving farmers and landowners the option to direct the future of English farming and environmental policy with a new consultation. Defra is proposing to move money from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) direct payments to a new system of paying farmers ‘public money for pubic goods’. Jonathan Thompson, associate at Hunters Solicitors, said that this consultation could provide much-needed transition and flexibility to UK farming and agriculture. The deadline for responses to these proposals is 8 May 2018.
Thompson said the consultation would allow farmers, including both landowners and tenant farmers, to give transition to their businesses: ‘Michael Gove has a two track approach: First, drawing upon future subsidies will entail showing a result for such monies being received. Such monies must benefit the structure of the farm and also elements of the farm business.
‘The second is to give farmers even more commercial confidence by enabling structural change. There is an exciting role for the legal profession there, to help shape and assist farming businesses.’
Thompson emphasised the importance of ‘transition’ in relation to the consultation, a word which also applies to UK farming as a business: ‘For 40 years its shape and structure has been led by EU policy. This in turn moulded farmers’ businesses. Yet there has been a transition in the world’s environment during that time.
‘The transition triggered by Brexit is an opportunity for the transition of UK agriculture and its structure of multi-sized farming businesses, be they large arable farms in East Anglia, or small livestock farms in North Northumberland. It is another change in the shape and structure of farming in Great Britain. It enables being more entrepreneurial.
‘Great change is forced upon the UK agriculture industry. Whether this is a positive change depends on how businesses react, both to the consultation (influencing it) and to the opportunities and threats it affords.
‘Michael Gove emphasises the environmental concerns (eg soil structure, carbon storage) behind some of the new policies. These are new times and measures against a demanding environmental shift, both in terms of the physical environment and the place of Great Britain in world trade.
‘This change can benefit the environment, in that farmers can be more flexible in how they positively shape the environment.’
This article was originally published in LexisNexis and can be accessed here, behind a paywall.