Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

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CPRE welcomes Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement today (4 January) that the current subsidy regime for farmers, in which most payments are related to the amount of land owned, will be replaced by a scheme focused on public benefits and enhancing the countryside.

CPRE made the case for this in our 2016 report New Model Farming.

The announcement was made at the Oxford Farming Conference, where Gove set out his plan for post-Brexit agriculture in the UK. He committed to continue the current level of payments until 2024, but will consult on a cap to reduce the amount of money that goes to the largest land owners. From 2024 payments will be made based on the delivery of public benefits, including environmental benefits such as planting woodland and improving soil health, and also wider contributions from farms such as rural resilience and increasing access to farmland for the public.

Belinda Gordon, Head of Rural Policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said:

“It is great to hear Michael Gove commit to putting his money where his mouth is and redirecting public money to public benefits. If designed well the new scheme should help enhance the landscapes and countryside from which we know Michael Gove, as well as the rest of us, derives so much pleasure and inspiration. We particularly welcome his recognition of the need to support smaller farms for the vital role they play in rural areas and in maintaining the diversity of our landscapes. The devil will be in detail so CPRE looks forward to working with Defra to develop a policy that will enhance our landscapes and stem the loss of farms from the countryside.”

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. In their diversity of approaches, they create greater diversity in food production and conservation, both of which shape rural heritage and rural economies.

A new report from the Environmental Audit Committee warns that wildlife and farming could be harmed by the Brexit process. MPs are calling on the Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act during Article 50 negotiations to uphold the UK's strong environmental standards. The report suggests protections for wildlife and habitats could be weakened while farmers could face lost subsidies, export tariffs and increased competition after Brexit.

Belinda Gordon, head of rural affairs at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says:

“The report is right to recognise that future support for land management should encourage innovation. We also agree that funding should be tied to public benefits beyond food production, and be tailored to the local landscape.

“Brexit could have a huge impact on farming and the natural environment, but it also gives the Government a chance to develop an ambitious agricultural policy that supports the distinctive attributes of English farming that make our countryside so beautiful and vibrant. We should also look to redirect public funding towards things that really benefit the public as well as farmers – wildlife, distinctive and varied landscapes, and flood and soil protection, alongside food production.”

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