George Eustice spoke of what was to come following Britain’s departure from the European Union and confirmed that basic payments will be received in the same format up until 2020 which will then see us enter a transition period. Following 44,000 responses to the Health and Harmony consultation paper, Mr Eustice unveiled new details about how defra are likely to implement the transition to the new land management scheme which will move away from an area based scheme. He suggested that the largest farmers would incur a cap on their basic payment and have the option to migrate over to pilot the new, uncapped scheme.
The basic payment would then be progressively reduced with farmers migrating across to the new scheme which would allow for glitches to be addressed and to give the smallest farmers the greatest amount of time to prepare for the changes.
Mr Eustice disagreed when it was suggested that the Government is focusing too much on the environment and not enough on profitable food production as he believes “commercial farming and doing what is right for the environment are two sides of the same coin”. To aid with farmers becoming more competitive and environmentally friendly, the Government would introduce grant schemes to help with slurry storage and application, for example.
He also insisted that the new scheme would be far simpler to operate as “we can get rid of the insane bureaucracy of EU auditors. This is a real opportunity to deliver a culture change in regulation”. Mr Eustice also added that he envisaged a scheme without an annual application deadline, which would spread the workload for farmers and Defra alike. The new scheme could see the return of a local RPA account manager.
Mr Eustice touched on trading and insisted that the Government would stand firm and set high standards for imported goods, to ensure that the British Farming sector is not undermined.
We were encouraged by what George Eustice had to say, coming from a Cornish farming family, he understands his topic however only time will tell how much is implemented and whether he will hold the position of Defra minister long enough to see us into the new scheme.