After months of waiting, Defra has finally delivered its so-called “command paper”, setting out the government’s strategy for moving from the Common Agricultural Policy to a new domestic farm policy.
The 10-week consultation document confirms plans to start capping the Basic Payments Scheme, with about £150m taken from larger farmers and moved to agri-environment schemes.
It also offers further details on which “public goods” the government wants to fund in future, including investment to improve productivity, providing public access to farmland, enhanced animal welfare standards and measures to support upland communities.
The following is a selection of reaction from around the industry:
- “It is vital that we don’t start overhauling parts of the current system which support farmers in providing a healthy and affordable supply of food, without tested and operational alternative programmes and measures in place.”
NFU president Minette Batters
- “We can make our industry more productive and more profitable. And we can deliver world-leading standards in animal welfare and environmental protection. But to do this we need certainty and time to plan. That is what we were promised and instead we have open questions, few decisions and no answers.”
Country Land and Business Association president Tim Breitmeyer
- “Today’s paper rightly sets out a move from direct payments to public money being used for public goods. Animal health and welfare underpin the reputation of UK agricultural produce, so it is essential that these are supported as public goods in agricultural policy post-Brexit.”
British Veterinary Association president John Fishwick
- “Vague principles and romanticising about the British countryside will not reduce the alarming rise in food banks, tackle growing food insecurity, or give farmers the stability they need.”
Labour shadow Defra secretary Sue Hayman
- “Sustainable food production must be at the heart of our new agricultural policy. UK manufacturers rely upon our farmers to provide them with a reliable source of raw materials and ingredients. Today’s consultation document is a welcome first step.”
Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright
- “Defra’s consultation is a mixture of vision and pragmatism to please many and probably annoy farmers. Inevitably, it does not promise a budget to deliver what we know is needed – from ensuring protection of vital ecosystems to giving all farmers and rural communities a decent life. Without a decent budget, can this deliver?”
Sustain campaign co-ordinator Vicki Hird
- “There is much to welcome in this paper’s ambition for high standards of food quality and farm animal welfare, for improving soil health, tackling climate change and protecting the environment. It is particularly heartening to see the organic milk co-operative, OMSCo, highlighted as an example of how farmers can work effectively together.”
Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning
- “It’s really encouraging to see animal welfare playing such a significant role in the government’s proposed Agriculture Bill. We strongly believe farmers should be supported to improve animal welfare and we know it’s something the public cares passionately about, too.”
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles