“Claims we intend to go back on our commitment to the environment are simply not right. A strong environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.”
At the weekend, there was speculation that the government was wanting to change how it compensates farmers:
“The government is considering scraping the ‘Brexit bonus’ which would have paid farmers and landowners to enhance nature – and replacing it with a yearly set sum for each acre of land they own, which would be similar to the much-maligned EU basic payments scheme of the common agricultural policy.”
Today’s Farmers’ Weekly carries a statement from the government saying this is not so:
Defra rejects claims its ELM scheme could be axed
Defra has issued a strong rebuttal over claims it is planning to water down or scrap Environmental Land Management (ELM), its flagship post-Brexit agri-environment scheme.
Over recent days, reports in the national media that Liz Truss may change or delay the proposed ELM schemes sparked an angry backlash from some of the UK’s biggest green groups. The rumours were triggered by tweets from environmentalist and former Defra director Ben Goldsmith. He suggested the government was considering reverting to an old-style area payment system of farm support, with the ELM scheme being derailed.
But in a blog published on its website on Monday 26 September, Defra said it “had always been clear” that “we do not intend to go back on our commitment to the environment”…
The government has confirmed it is conducting a “rapid review” of its agricultural policy following Liz Truss’s appointment as prime minister and a new top team at Defra, headed by environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena.
The Farmers’ Report also carries feedback today:
Defra responds to rumours that ELMS could be scrapped
CLA president Mark Tufnell urged the government to put an end to the rumours – “not least because they only serve to damage confidence amongst farmers that the UK government is serious about moving away from the Common Agricultural Policy regime”.
Meanwhile, Soil Association head of farming policy, Gareth Morgan, said in a statement yesterday that the organisation had been “shocked” by media reports suggesting the government could ditch plans to pay farmers to protect nature and climate. He believes it would be a “catastrophic mistake” and a betrayal of not only nature and climate, but also the farmers who have invested in tests and trials for ELMS.
NFU president Minette Batters welcomed the review, saying in a statement: “We’re pleased the government is reviewing the framework for future farming schemes to help ensure farm businesses are supported through the current economic challenges and can make progressive decisions to boost growth and farming’s contribution to the nation.”
She said that while the NFU supports the ‘public money for public goods’ policy, it called for a delay as the scheme was not ‘fit for purpose’ or ready to roll out in its current form.“I hope this review works in partnership with farmers to develop a framework that enables farmers to produce food for the nation and enhance our environment.”
This is from the Defra website:
Government reiterates commitment to environmental protections
There has been significant media attention this weekend, including in the Financial Times, Times, and the Telegraph, focused on comments from environmental groups such as the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, Green Alliance and Wildlife and Countryside Link. These organisations have expressed concerns that announcements in the Government’s growth plan to reform bureaucratic processes in the planning system, create investment zones and unlock economic growth may impact on existing protections for the environment.
We have always been clear that we do not intend to go back on our commitment to the environment. There has also been speculation that Defra may change or delay proposed Environmental Land Management schemes with coverage in the Observer and BBC Online.
A UK government spokesperson said: “Claims we intend to go back on our commitment to the environment are simply not right. A strong environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. We have legislated through the Environment Act and will continue to improve our regulations and wildlife laws in line with our ambitious vision. We want every corner of our country to prosper, too. Bureaucratic processes in the planning system do not necessarily protect the environment, so by making sure we have the right regulations for our nation, we can make this happen.”
Parallel to this, there has been concern about the government’s proposals to change environmental regulations:
Wildlife groups have responded further, as reported today in the Guardian: