Treasury ministers have pledged that payments to farmers currently provided under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will continue “with the current level of funding” until the end of 2020.
The commitment has been welcomed as a vital positive step in preparing for UK exit from the EU by the CLA.
The CLA has led the call for ministers to provide farmers with certainty about basic payments under the Common Agricultural Policy which farmers have budgeted to receive until the end of 2020. It has argued that this step is vital to help businesses to manage through a period of significant uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote and extremely poor trading conditions for agricultural commodities, as well as to provide the additional time necessary to develop a new improved UK-specific policy to replace the CAP.
CLA President, Ross Murray said: “This decision is a vitally important first step in preparing for the UK’s exit from the European Union. It will provide a significant degree of reassurance to farmers and other landowners across the country.
“We have been clear, since the start of the EU Referendum campaign, that this is the first decision ministers had to make to reassure rural businesses in the advent of a Brexit vote. It is therefore a strong signal that will give confidence to businesses considering their future in a difficult agricultural market.
“There are of course many more decisions that now need to be made, not least a commitment that there will be a fully funded, world-leading domestic Food, Farming and Environment Policy in place ready to succeed the current system in place ready for 2021.”
The Treasury statement is less clear on the short term funding situation with regard to other EU funded schemes such as rural development policy and Countryside Stewardship. The statement says that “all structural and investment fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before the Autumn Statement will be fully funded”. The CLA will seek clarification as to the implications of this decision for applications underway and yet to be fully agreed.
For example, applications for funding this year’s Countryside Stewardship programme are being made now to Natural England with a deadline of end of September. It is not clear that there is sufficient time for applications received by then will be processed and in place by the end of November, when the Autumn Financial Statement takes place.
Ross Murray continued: “EU funded schemes are vitally important to driving investment in our rural economy and delivering environmental benefits. There is no justification not to continue with these schemes up until the UK leaves the EU.
“The decision suggests that applications made under this year’s Countryside Stewardship scheme for example are likely to be considered and agreements will be funded, but it’s not wholly clear. There is no clarity on whether there will be a programme in 2017 and 2018. We will press for a further statement that properly clarifies the situation.
“In the meantime we encourage members to continue to make applications to take part in rural development programme schemes, especially Countryside Stewardship. Important work such as schemes that fund management of wildlife habitats and planting hedgerows must continue.”
‘New Opportunities: The case for a world-leading Food, Farming and Environmental policy' explains why a UK policy is necessary and highlights the scale and scope of what is required. It can be downloaded here.