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CPRE reaction to Agriculture Bill

CPRE reaction to Agriculture Bill

CPRE welcomes the publication today of the first major Agriculture Bill for 70 years, which will legislate for a new system of ‘public money for public goods’ to deliver better environmental outcomes and improve the viability of the sector. CPRE have long called for such a system, and made the case for this in our 2016 report New Model Farming.   

Graeme Willis, senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said:

‘There are welcome measures in this new agriculture bill. Paying famers for protecting and enhancing our landscapes, soils and countryside is a step in the right direction to restore our environment, produce food more sustainably, and ensure our countryside is thriving and healthy in years to come.

‘Farmers are the custodians of our landscapes and, for too long, public money has been used to simply reward land ownership rather than enhancement of our fragile environment. It is great to see government support a shift towards rewarding farmers for environmental stewardship.

‘However, without detail on the amount of future investment in sustainable farming, it remains to be seen whether there will be sufficient money to support a diverse farming sector and fund the restoration of a healthy countryside and landscapes. Commitments to support new entrants are welcome, but there must also be measures to reverse the decline in smaller farms.’

CPRE believes that diversity in farm size and enterprise is crucial to maintaining England’s world-renowned landscapes and variety of food. Smaller farms are vital to the countryside as they sustain rural communities through jobs and protect distinctive local character. They foster greater diversity in food production and conservation, both of which shape rural heritage, rural economies and England’s landscapes.

The Bill will replace the current subsidy regime for farmers, in which most payments are related to the amount of land owned, with a landmark scheme focused on public benefits and enhancing the countryside.

From 2021, payments will begin to be made through a system of environmental management contracts to deliver environmental benefits such as improving soil health and providing habitats for wildlife, and wider contributions such as improving public access to the countryside and protecting distinctive landscape features.

The transition period, which will continue to 2027, will provide welcome stability for farmers, and gives them sufficient time to adjust and adapt. This should mean that farmers are able to change the way they farm to be profitable, reduce their impact on the environment and restore the health of the countryside.

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