Farmers in England will have their direct payments, worth £1.8 billion in 2019-2020 through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, cut by over half by 2025 and completely taken away in 2027 under new government moves.
And a new parliamentary report warned the “blind optimism” shown by Tory ministers could force many small and tenant farmers in England out of business, whilst accusing them of not doing enough to gain farmers’ trust in delivering crucial plans.
Under government plans, farmers are encouraged to free up land for environmental reasons.
Higher prices, worse environment?
But the report warned this would means England will import more of its food, often from countries with poorer environmental standards, making the UK more dependent on food from abroad and making food prices more expensive.
The paper also warned this is likely to lead to farms getting bigger, which will in turn harm the environment, against government hopes.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is intending to match the £2.4 billion worth of subsidies given by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to UK farmers every year.
But this comes with an intention to cut the amount of direct payments, depending on the size of the land farmed, according to The Independent.
Committee chair and Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said: “We have known we were replacing the CAP since 2016 and still we see no clear plans, objectives or communications with those at the sharp end – farmers – in this multi-billion pound, radical overhaul of the way land is used and, more crucially, food is produced in this country.
“The UK is also already a large net importer of food and we heard in evidence that the ELMS’ vague ambition to ‘maximise the value to society of the landscape’ may in reality mean that increases further.”
Farmers earn better since Brexit, Tory minister insists
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said the Tories are “falling far short” on help for farmers, with “trade deals that undercut our rural businesses, leaving them exposed and rightly feeling let down”.
He added: “Just this week, the environment secretary tried to dodge responsibility for making sure farmers get a fair deal from major retailers, despite rocketing food and production prices.
“For our country to thrive, we need to see more food grown at home, to a high standard and through sustainable processes – but the government isn’t listening.”
But environment secretary George Eustice said Defra disagreed with many issues presented by the report, and accused it of not including recent developments, whilst arguing UK farmers will be paid better post-Brexit.
“Farm incomes have improved significantly since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and there will never be a better time to improve the way we reward farmers,” Eustice said.