OFC 2018: Farm leaders react to Gove’s speech

Industry leaders have welcomed the government’s pledge that farmers will have five years to adjust to a new agricultural policy after Brexit – but warned that success will depend on the finer detail.

It follows assurances made in a speech by Defra secretary Michael Gove at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday (4 January).

See also: Basic payments will stay until 2024, says Gove

Meurig Raymond

Meurig Raymond © David Hartley/REX/Shutterstock

“With adequate time to prepare, we can ensure that the introduction of an ambitious new policy framework, one that is suited to the needs of the farming industry and the expectations of the UK public, is managed properly and delivered successfully.”
NFU president Meurig Raymond

“Mr Gove was absolutely right to recognise the vital contribution uplands farmers have in maintaining their iconic landscape. Without the productive, resilient and profitable farm businesses across the country, we will not have the people to look after the natural environment.”
NFU Cymru president Stephen James

“We will consider the forthcoming consultation on capping of payments closely. [Mr Gove] has been clear that businesses must be rewarded for what they do… That will not be the case if a poorly thought through and rushed capping policy excludes and alienates businesses simply because of their size.”
CLA policy director Christopher Price

Helen Browning

Helen Browning © CALYX/REX/Shutterstock

“The clear timetable provides much-needed certainty for farmers… We now need to see more detail on how farmers will be enabled and encouraged to shift to higher animal welfare systems, move away from synthetic pesticides, restore degraded soils and improve water quality.”
Helen Browning, Soil Association

“It is disappointing that Michael Gove continues to focus on the replacement of the BPS scheme rather than focusing on the principles of our new trading relationships with the EU and the rest of the world, as ultimately this will be what has a larger impact on the farming industry.”
Jonathan Stiff, head of rural division, Cheffins

“It is disappointing to see that the system of paying most subsidies on a per acre basis is going to carry on for several years…. This rewards multimillionaire estate owners while other farmers remain in poverty… It’s good to hear that this scheme may be capped, but it needs to end.”
Ian Bateman, director, Land Environment Economics & Policy Institute, Exeter University

“World Trade Organization rules may become a significant obstacle [to Mr Gove’s plans]. For the state to provide support to an industry which trades with the rest of the world, any mechanism of financial support must not be trade distorting.”
Professors Alastair Bailey and Sophia Davidova, School of Economics, Kent University

“If post-Brexit farm support schemes include ring-fenced incentives for farmers to improve animal welfare, the government’s laudable ambitions for the UK to produce the highest quality food will be met… If we get it right now, the UK’s food quality can become the world’s gold standard.”
David Bowles, RSPCA head of public affairs

“The Scottish government has already signalled its support for a suitable transitional period and the speech from Mr Gove underlines the importance of both governments working collaboratively to develop the mechanics that will create the best possible environment for Scottish farming.”
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates,

“Any post Brexit agricultural policy must also support animal health and welfare as public goods – since these are the very reasons that we have our global reputation for agricultural produce and high standards.”
John Fishwick, president, British Veterinary Association

Mary Creagh

Mary Creagh © Ben Cawthra/REX/Shutterstock

“We have waited nearly three years for an environment plan, without which key protections will be lost after Brexit. Announcing the subsidy before the strategy is like putting the cart before the horse.”
Environmental audit committee chairwoman Mary Creagh MP

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato © Stephen Chung/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

“If Gove is serious about the injustices associated with land ownership in this country he would call time on the use of agricultural land to hide and shelter wealth. Agricultural land offers generous tax breaks as it is exempt from inheritance tax after two years if it is actively farmed.”
Molly Scott Cato MEP, European Parliament agriculture committee member

Tim Farron

Tim Farron © Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock

“The overwhelming majority of livestock and dairy farmers would be in the red if it wasn’t for direct farm payments. Gove’s announcement also does nothing to address the impending tariff catastrophe facing farmers once we leave the single market.”
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Defra spokesman