As part of Brexit preparations, Defra has published its new Agriculture Bill, which outlines how the UK farming and agriculture sectors will look after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
As part of the bill, a new Environmental and Land Management system will see farmers and land owners paid for ‘public goods’ such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, and higher animal welfare standards. This will replace the current Direct Payments system that pays farmers based on the amount of land farmed.
Currently, critics say the system favours owners with large amounts of land, rather than farmers whose land delivers public services. The government hopes the reform will encourage farmers to diversify their activities and plan for a sustainable future that can help deliver ‘a green Brexit’.
There will be an agricultural transition period between 2021 and 2027 when the Direct Payments system will be phased out and replaced.
The bill also has a strong emphasis on agriculture R&D to help increase productivity in the sector.
‘The introduction of the Agriculture Bill is an historic moment as we leave the EU and move towards a brighter future for farming,’ said Environment Secretary Michael Gove. ‘This Bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations.
‘Critically, we will also provide the smooth and gradual transition that farmers and land managers need to plan ahead.’