Michael Gove hints at cuts to area payments

Defra secretary Michael Gove has sent his strongest signals yet that support payments are likely to be reduced for larger-scale farmers in a post-Brexit subsidy landscape.

Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC television on Sunday (2 July), the former education secretary was asked if it was true wealthy farmers such as Sir James Dyson would receive less money under a new UK support regime than they do now.

The one-word reply from the secretary of state was “Yes”.

See also: Greenpeace demands end of area payments, as Dyson nets £1.6m

With the same single, affirmative answer, Mr Gove also confirmed he was opposed to any reduction in environmental or food quality standards as part of leaving the EU.

This is despite the fact that changes in EU production standards have been called for by US farm organisations as the price of securing a free-trade deal with Washington.

However, UK campaigners have raised concerns that this could result in chlorine-washed chicken, GM crops and hormone-stimulated beef appearing on British supermarket shelves.

Media activity

As well as appearing on the BBC’s flagship political programme, Mr Gove has also done his first major post-appointment print interview, appearing in The Sunday Times, where he reinforced his pronouncements on moving away from an area-based payment system.

“One of the things I want to do is see how we can better support investment in environmental goods rather than simply rewarding people for the number of hectares they have,” he said.

Mr Gove also indicated he was in favour of banning the live export of animals overseas, though this is now a relatively minor activity.

His weekend media appearances reflect an increase in Mr Gove’s political profile since his fall from grace 12 months ago, when he launched a last-minute Conservative party leadership bid to prevent Boris Johnson’s march to the top job.

Cast out of the Cabinet by eventual winner Theresa May, he was brought back in following the post-election reshuffle last month, to replace Andrea Leadsom, who was moved to Leader of the House of Commons.