Time for change in farm support, say rural landowners

21 July 2017

An ambitious vision to reform the system of farm support after the UK leaves the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy has been unveiled by the CLA.

CLA President Ross Murray has revealed the organisation’s vision for a new policy framework that redeploys public money in a way that rewards farmers for managing land for the benefit of the whole of society. The policy should also make it possible for a new wave of vital private and public investment to help the farming sector harness opportunity in a global market place.

At the core of the proposal is ending the much-criticised European Basic Payment Scheme which pays farmers and landowners based on the amount of land they farm. Instead, there would be a switch to a new Land Management Contract that supports farmers who choose to manage land in a way that delivers public benefits, from delivering improvements in soil quality to enhanced animal welfare and planting trees.

The CLA has set out how the Land Management Contract could give farmers a choice to deliver outcomes in return for public money, if they agree conditions that are more transparent, easier to administer and demonstrate value for money for the taxpayer. The CLA shows how the contract would form one important part of an overarching ‘Food, Farming and Environmental Policy’ that would also see budget allocated to measures that will support an increase in farming productivity and rural economic prosperity. 

CLA President Ross Murray said: “Farmers and landowners want to run profitable sustainable businesses. We want to produce quality food that receives a fair price and we accept the same risk and reward as any other business in our economy. That is why ending reliance on subsidy should be a long-term ambition of post-Brexit agriculture policy across the UK.

“Our vision is for fundamental reform, but not for ending payments to farmers. Payments are necessary because there is vital work to be done across our countryside to manage soils and preserve the productive capacity of the land, to plant the trees we need, to clean and store water, to support the farming practices that make up our iconic landscapes or to make it possible for people to enjoy our beautiful natural spaces. These responsibilities bring costs and burdens that other businesses do not have to bear.

“That is why it is right to continue to invest public money in remunerating farmers to deliver the things people want from our countryside. The Land Management Contract is a new way to deliver what is needed, using public money cost-effectively. It turns a system based on entitlement to one of business contracts for defined services.

“These are contracts under which any farmer or forester, from the smallest hill farmer to the large estate owner, can choose to undertake in return for a financial reward based on what they contribute, not the amount of land they own.

“Reform of this kind, delivered carefully with a suitable transition, can end once and for all the divisive view that farmers are receiving subsidies for nothing. If delivered alongside a new industrial strategy for our food and farming sector, this contract can truly harness the opportunities of leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and unlock a new lease of life for farming, our rural economy and communities across the countryside.” 

Click here to read the New Opportunites briefing on how to establish a new Land Management Contract between farmers and society