Greenpeace says it is willing to campaign with the NFU to secure the best post-Brexit deal for the countryside – so long as the offer is right.
The NFU has called for the countryside to speak with one voice if it is to have any chance of retaining full access to the single European market.
It has asked UK farm organisations to help deliver a unified message to government – and intends to invite environmental groups to join the coalition too.
Greenpeace UK policy director Doug Parr said it was clear agricultural policy would undergo major changes as the UK left the EU.
Dr Parr said Greenpeace had not yet been invited to work with the NFU – but would be willing to consider doing so if it was for the greater good.
“There is no doubt that the structure of payments in the post-Brexit world is going to be different,” he told the East of England Farming conference on Thursday (3 November).
“For me, that constitutes an opportunity.”
Brexit was an opportunity to restructure the farm payment system so it delivered public benefits, Dr Parr told the conference delegates at the East of England showground, Peterborough.
Drop in support
UK farmers and the agricultural sector receive some £3bn/year under the EU’s CAP.
But this amount of money is expected to fall post-Brexit.
Dr Parr said was “abundantly clear” that future government support to farmers was more likely to be based on environmental measures, rather than on direct payments.
Given the choice between investing more money in social care and supporting agriculture, it was clear the government would be looking towards the former.
“The only way in which that sort of level of cash is going to be directed towards farming is if it can be seen, broadly speaking, to be for the public good.”
Dr Parr suggested this could include farmers who undertook measures that improved biodiversity, soil health, flood protection, water management and climate change mitigation.
“It will need a very broad public consent for anything like the same amount of money to be heading in the direction of farming.
“This is a time for a very broad public debate, not a very narrow one.
“Unless there is a buy-in from a much wider range of the public, it is not going to be a durable political solution.
“This debate needs to include a lot more people to give consent to the final outcome, otherwise it will simply become unstuck.”