Axe falls on taxpayer subsidies to farmers

Axe falls on taxpayer subsidies to farmers: George Eustice is to confirm that payments will be stopped in post-Brexit shake-up of agriculture

  • Environment Secretary George Eustice will give details on the cuts today 
  • The subsidies will be cut from next year and gone altogether by 2028 
  •  The National Farmers’ Union warned last night that it was a ‘high-risk’ strategy

Subsidies for farmers are being axed in a post-Brexit shake-up of British agriculture.

In the biggest change to farming in more than 50 years, they will be phased out and replaced with payments to protect the environment.

Environment Secretary George Eustice will spell out today how subsidies will be cut from next year and will be gone by 2028.

The National Farmers’ Union warned last night that it was a ‘high-risk’ strategy.

Environment Secretary George Eustice will spell out today how subsidies will be cut from next year and will be gone by 2028

The National Farmers’ Union warned last night that it was a ‘high-risk’ strategy

Until 2024, the Government will maintain the £2.4billion paid to the UK in EU agriculture subsidies, but will halve the £1.8billion handed out in direct payments to farmers.

Trade deal is possible this week

Britain and the EU could reach a trade deal this week – if Brussels can demonstrate ‘pragmatism and good faith’, Dominic Raab said yesterday.

The Foreign Secretary said the UK was in the ‘last leg of negotiations’ with the EU over a post-Brexit deal and talks now depended on resolving a ‘fairly narrow’ set of issues, such as fishing rights.

Face-to-face discussions between Britain’s chief negotiator Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier (right) resumed over the weekend. Yesterday Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We’re down to really two basic issues. But I think in particular the issue around fisheries, and we need the EU to accept the point of principle that as we come through the transition period it’s a fact of leaving the EU that we take back sovereignty and control of our own waters and our own fisheries.’

He added: ‘If the EU understand that point of principle, and we have some pragmatism, we can get there.’

The Government received a boost last night when Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party would probably support any trade deal. He told a conference: ‘We need a deal… I don’t think there’s a much of a case for voting against it’, as this would be effectively voting for no deal. 

The £900million saved will go towards a new Environmental Land Management scheme (Elm) to reward farmers for sustainable farming practices, creating habitats and rewilding land.

Separately, a farming investment fund will offer grants for equipment and technology such as robots and infrastructure including water storage.

A resilience programme will help those most affected by the loss of direct payments to help them manage their businesses.

In a speech to farmers and environmental groups today, Mr Eustice is expected to say: ‘We want farmers to access public money to help their businesses become more productive and sustainable, whilst taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare, and deliver climate change outcomes on the land they manage.

‘Rather than the prescriptive, top-down rules of the EU, we want to support the choices farmers and land managers take. If we work together to get this right, a decade from now the rest of the world will want to follow our lead.’

The Elm scheme will have three strands. The first is a sustainable farming incentive to support measures such as improving soil health and hedgerows and reducing pesticides.

The second, local nature recovery, will fund activity such as creating, managing or restoring habitat, managing floods using natural features and boosting wild species.

Thirdly, there will be landscape recovery projects to finance large-scale woodland creation, peatland restoration, or the creation or restoration of coastal habitats such as wetlands and salt marsh.

Rewilding projects that restore natural processes to large areas of land could be funded under the third strand. Officials want a more flexible environmental scheme overall than the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy allows.

NFU president Minette Batters said: ‘Expecting farmers to run viable, high-cost businesses, produce food and increase their environmental delivery, while phasing out existing support and without a complete replacement scheme for almost three years is high risk and a very big ask. Ministers must bear these challenges in mind.’

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