Delegates at this year’s Conservative Party Conference heard views on how the Government can deliver a green Brexit that works for farmers.
The debate on Tuesday evening, organised by the CLA, involved the CLA President, National Trust and Environment Minister Therese Coffey. Devon MP Neil Parish from the Efra Select Committee chaired the event.
Dr Coffey told the room that Defra must make sure the Treasury is generous with a future budget for agricultural policy and that Defra would need to “fight hard” against the needs of other departments to retain the £3.1bn budget for farming subsidies. She also confirmed there would be no changes to the CAP until the Agriculture Bill has been through Parliament.
CLA President Ross Murray highlighted the CLA’s land management contract as the way forward for future agricultural policy and as a means to deliver a green Brexit that works for farmers.
His comments that productive agriculture and a healthy environment “go hand in hand” and that “to farm green, you have to be in the black” were widely agreed with by the audience.
Mr Murray also highlighted the environmental work of larger landowners saying it would be wrong to penalise someone just because of the size of their business in relation to delivering environmental benefits. Mr Murray also highlighted the need for 10-year agreements with farmers and land managers and much longer-term agreements in the case of forestry.
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director the National Trust, said that he felt a green Brexit for farmers should be a requirement but it must be made simpler as it is currently “dead hard” for farmers in relation to administration for delivering environmental benefits under the CAP. He also thought a five-year transition period was “about right” and that different investment options for support should be fostered in different parts of the UK.
During the Q&A session the Woodland Trust asked the panel what arguments needed to be advanced to prevent Treasury push-back on cutting agricultural subsidies. Dr Coffey said Defra would be making the argument when it came for funding to open up access to natural and rural landscapes.
Other questions focused on issues with the RPA, abolishing the three-crop rule, extending the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, the cost of food and the problems with moving away from BPS.
Click here to watch Green and pleasant land? The countryside after Brexit