Farmers are anxiously awaiting further detail from the government on imminent changes to their subsidy payments, with many reluctant to trust the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to manage the transition, the leader of one of the UK’s biggest farming organisations has said. “Quite a few have said to me: ‘Well, we’re not at all clear what Defra is doing,’” Mark Tufnell, the recently installed president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), told. “They say: ‘We don’t think that Defra know what they’re doing,’ and ask me: ‘What do you know?’”
Members are hoping for more details of post-Brexit support for farmers at the organisation’s conference on Thursday, where the environment secretary, George Eustice, will set out what support farmers can expect when their basic farm payments are cut by between 5% and 25% this year before being phased out entirely over the next six years.
Brexit means the UK has left the EU’s common agricultural policy, under which farmers received about £3bn a year in payments allocated based on the amount of land they farmed. In future, there will be payments of “public money for public goods” – that is, farmers taking measures to restore nature, nurture the soil, improve air and water quality, and provide habitats for wildlife, in return for taxpayer-funded support under a system of environmental land management contracts, or ELMs.
Tufnell said the future of farming was more than ever in the hands of the government, with trade deals, problems with the planning system, and the new system of ELMs. “We may end up with more people claiming from a limited pot, meaning that the individual will end up receiving less,” he said.
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