UK Government to end direct payments to farmers

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Agricultural Bill unveiled
The UK Government presented its post-Brexit Agricultural Bill to Parliament this week, which will end direct subsidy payments to farmers.

According to environment secretary Michael Gove this post-Brexit policy will invest in the environment and “take back control for farmers after almost 50 years under EU rules”.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said the current subsidy system of Direct Payments was “ineffective” ​and paid farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. 

It said these payments were skewed towards the largest landowners and were not linked to any specific public benefits. The top 10% of recipients currently received almost 50% of total payments, while the bottom 20% received just 2%.

The proposal in the Agricultural Bill is that, in future, farmers and land managers will be paid for “public goods”,​ such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding.

Defra said the Government intended the new Environmental Land Management System to start from next year after working with farmers to design, develop and trial the new approach.

Defra said Direct Payments would be made on the same basis as now in 2019 and 2020. It would make simplifications to the system as soon as possible, subject to the terms of the overall Brexit implementation period.

There would then be an agricultural transition period in England between 2021 and 2027 as payments were gradually phased out.

The Bill would also provide funding for farmers to help increase productivity and invest in research and development.

The Government said it would also be able to make payments during a seven-year transition period for famers to invest in new technologies and methods that boost productivity.

Gove said: “The introduction of the Agriculture Bill is an historic moment as we leave the EU and move towards a brighter future for farming.

“After nearly 50 years of being tied to burdensome and outdated EU rules, we have an opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit.

“This Bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations.

Critically, we will also provide the smooth and gradual transition that farmers and land managers need to plan ahead.”

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