The much anticipated consultation paper Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit was launched yesterday (27 February) by Environment Secretary, Michael Gove. The paper has been heralded as a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for farmers, landowners and food producers to shape the future of English farming and the environment.
As expected the paper concentrates on proposals around the change from the current system of direct payments to a new system of payments based on paying farmers ‘public money for public goods’ in particular in their work to enhance the environment and invest in sustainable food production. It could also include investment in new technology to improve productivity, enhanced animal welfare standards for livestock and providing measures to support the resilience of rural and upland communities.
There is also a re-commitment of the pledge to continue to fund the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. There are further proposals regarding the ‘transition period’ lasting a number of years after the implementation period where direct payments would continue, but at the same time would see a reduction in payments to the largest landowners first in order to free up monies to spend on those ‘public goods’.
However, Michael Gove is clear to point out that: “The proposals…are the beginning of a conversation, not a conclusion and we want everyone who cares about the food we eat and the environment around us to contribute.”
Among the range of proposals the Government is seeking views on include:
- Options for how to gradually phase out direct payments
- Range of public goods that could qualify
- New business models and incentives for industry to invest in innovation and new technologies.
PKF Francis Clark Head of Agriculture, Brian Harvey commented:
“The 10 week consultation process is a unique opportunity for those who have an interest in the sector to feed back their considered opinions and provide answers to the specific consultation questions raised. It is a time to speak up and ensure that your voice is heard in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of farming.
In terms of local agriculture the previously announced transition period is generally welcomed and does provide stability and certainty as we enter the new post Brexit world.
Capping of direct payments had been widely talked about and no doubt the £150m of savings to be used to assist farmers delivering environmental schemes will grab the headlines. However, if the cap is set at £100,000 I don’t believe that this will impact too many farmers across the region, and potentially could see funds redistributed towards local environmental schemes.
As I have said before the key point now is for farmers to understand the changes ahead and ensure that they can best benefit going forward and that their businesses are as resilient as possible.”
Here at PKF Francis Clark, our Agriculture Sector Accounting specialists will be keeping a close eye on developments and are always on hand to help and advise you.
You can view the papers and access the consultation here: