“Few of us can make sense of the mishmash that’s currently under development.”
“It won’t take too long to run out of land, curtailing landscape scale ambitions for biodiversity.”
The government has published more information about its proposed changes in subsidies:
However, there’s a huge amount of scepticism within the farming community.
Dartmoor farmer Anton Coaker comments in the WMN:
Will the end of farm subsidies signal the end of farming as we know it? asks Anton Coaker
Rightly or wrongly, old EU era farm subsidies are being steadily wound down. Cash we’ve relied on to prop up farm businesses is being cut every year, until it disappears in three years. The grand plan is that Defra is introducing new systems of support, based on us hugging bunnies and dolphins, or whatever. In fact, Minister George has promised the overall budget will remain, so none of us will be worse off.
However, this is somewhat disingenuous. You see, although the cuts to the old payments have started, his new schemes aren’t really up and running yet, despite Defra having had several years to get them ready. I don’t know where the money’s going, because few of us can make sense of the mishmash that’s currently under development. There are various different overlapping ideas, still being changed on the fly. They require time and effort to both get signed into, and then adhere to…
Because I’m careful, I’m not about to ‘go scat’. But, by golly, I’m certainly minimising my exposure by shrinking my farming operations. Many who are more inclined to ‘push on’ are heading for a cliff edge.
Dr Alastair Leake is Director of Policy (England) at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). He manages the ground-breaking Allerton Project R&D farm in Leicestershire, where the team have proven that by using science, high-yield agriculture and high levels of biodiversity can co-exist. He is a member of the Science for Sustainable Agriculture advisory group.
Here he is very sceptical about the unintended consequences of government plans:
If it is a policy intention simply to transfer money from the former CAP from farmers and into nature reserves, with 70% of the land mass in England given over to farming then it won’t take too long to run out of land, curtailing landscape scale ambitions for biodiversity.
Above all, farmers need support, says Viola King Forbes, who discusses her research into factors that enable British farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices:
Most farmers do not yet have access to the culture, networks, knowledge, or financial support they need. We must take great care not to villainise those who have not yet made changes, and instead seek out what may empower them to act. Paying attention to individual stories is essential if we are ever to make system change.
Finally, the NFU is calling for some sort of “transition to the new system”: