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  • How Will Brexit Affect UK Farming?

How Will Brexit Affect UK Farming?

Mar 06 2018 Read 1665 Times

There has been much speculation about how the UK’s impending exit of the EU will affect a whole host of industries, including the farming sector. Dependent on the EU for significant subsidies and reliant on the market as its biggest customer, many farmers have been concerned about how the negotiations will proceed.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has potentially given them even more cause for concern with the announcement that agriculture payments will be reshuffled post-Brexit. At the moment, farmers receive funding based on the amount of land they own, but wants to refocus subsidies on those farms who are committed to sustainable practices and helping the environment.

Status quo

At present, farmers receive around £3 billion every year under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is calculated based largely on the size of estate each individual farmer owns. Gove wants to scrap this system in favour of one whereby those who seek to aid the environment, either through purifying soil, air and water, assisting with carbon trapping schemes or encouraging biodiversity on their land are rewarded for their efforts.

Gove acknowledged that the farming sector hasn’t always been the most environmentally-minded industry in the UK, with profit being placed above sustainability all too often. Methane emissions from agriculture and dairy farming, for example, are one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases (GHGs) which cause climate change. Deforestation and the clearing of wildlife habitats to make way for crop fields and grazing pastures is also a concern. Now, Gove says, the tide is turning.

All change

“It's been the case in the past that we have put too much emphasis on trying to generate a form of farming that is neglectful of the environment,” he explained. “Now the balance has shifted... and this command paper today backs farmers who want to do the right thing. We're not going to give you money simply on the basis that you've already got a big estate. We'll only give you money if you are contributing to the environment, making sure we have fewer floods, making sure that there are habits for the wildlife that we value, making sure that our water, our rivers are cleaner, and that our air is purer.”

The change in system is expected to generate in excess of £150 million in funding for environmental projects, and though the details have yet to be worked out, Gove has published tentative proposals for how it could function. At the moment, two options are being posited. Either:

  • A £100,000 maximum payment to all farmers, affecting around 2,100 farms

OR

  • Incremental reductions in payments, affecting roughly 19,000 farms. Only 300 would stand to lose £75,000 – all of whom currently claim in excess of £200,000 – while the majority (13,500) would receive less than £5,000 less than they did before.

The proposed changes have been met with caution by farmers, who say they are more concerned about securing a long-term trade deal with the EU – where their biggest overseas market lies. In any case, Gove has indicated that farmers would have five years after the secession date to adjust to the impending changes.

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