MPs scrutinise Gove’s Brexit farm policy

Farm leaders are giving evidence to MPs on government proposals for a major overhaul of agricultural policy once the UK leaves the European Union.

Representatives from the NFU, Tenant Farmers Association and the Country Land and Business Association are appearing before MPs on Wednesday (14 March).

See also: What Defra’s Brexit plan means for farmers

Witnesses during the morning evidence session include NFU deputy president Guy Smith, TFA chief executive George Dunn and CLA president Tim Breitmeyer.

It follows the publication of government proposals to phase out direct payments to farmers and replace them with a new system based largely on payments for environmental services.

Farm payments in 2019 will follow the existing model, and the government will commit the same total amount for farm support until the end of this parliament in 2022.

But the way support is paid is likely to be reallocated, with payments largely targeted towards measures that improve the environment and deliver other “public goods”.

Public access

These measures include public access to farmland and the countryside, enhanced welfare standards for livestock and measures to support the resilience of rural and upland communities.

Defra secretary Michael Gove launched a 10-week consultation on the so-called “Health and Harmony” proposals last month.

Farm leaders immediately called for more details of his plans.

They voiced concern that the government had published a lot of information on how it wanted to get rid of direct payments – but little on what will replace them.

Discussion topics

The proposals are being scrutinised by MPs on the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee.

Likely topics for discussion include transitional arrangements as the new policies are implemented and the payment of public money to farmers who provide of public goods.

The committee will also hear from water, wildlife and nature conservation charities.

They include Richard Hebditch, of the National Trust; Tom Lancaster, of the RSPB; Arlin Rickard, of the Rivers Trust; and Ellie Brodie, of the Wildlife Trusts.