Jan 26, 2023
English Farmers Will Get Post-Brexit Subsidies for Going Greener
(Bloomberg) -- English farmers will be able to claim payments for sustainable practices such as looking after hedgerows as part of an overhaul of the post-Brexit agriculture sector.
The UK’s exit from the European Union allowed it to leave the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy, where farmers get payments based on the land they work. Those in Britain have suffered from high costs in the wake of the pandemic and Brexit, and the government said the incentives will provide more certainty for growers to make business plans as direct payments are phased out.
As part of the incentives to be rolled out, farmers can also get paid for not using insecticides, protecting grassland and including crops like beans and peas as part of what they manage, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said Thursday. The UK produces just over half of the food it consumes.
Farming groups have long awaited details of the measures — which follow a pilot program — for more clarity on how subsidies will work. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said it’s a “step in the right direction” and the National Farmers Union described the details as encouraging.
“It’s encouraging that Defra has provided us with more detail,” NFU Vice President David Exwood said in a statement. “A speedy application and payment process will also be key to give farm businesses some much-needed security.”
Still, one grower said environment practices are already in place and bemoaned continued cost pressures.
“We’ll be rewarded for the good practices that we’re already doing,” said Olly Harrison, a grains farmer who’s based near Liverpool, England. “The support doesn’t even touch the increases in price of fuel, fertilizer.”
Policymakers across Europe are starting to pay more attention to the environmental impact of producing food, including methane emissions and the usage of fertilizers and pesticide, but are facing resistance.
While parts of the measures are welcome, the government needs to do more to help farmers make changes and shift to more greener practices, the Soil Association said.
“The government is failing to make clear how they will give farmers confidence to invest in the radical changes needed for a resilient and sustainable, agroecological farming sector,” said Gareth Morgan, head of farming policy at the association.
(Updates with comment from the NFU)
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