George Eustice discussed changes in the subsidy system post-Brexit at the Oxford Farming Conference.
For farmers to continue to be eligible for direct subsidies post-Brexit they will be required to prove they benefit the public to receive taxpayers’ money. Although this sounds incredibly alarming to farmers who rely on subsidies for half of their income or more, the real focus is to tackle the so-called “slipper farmers” receiving huge subsidies for the amount of land they own regardless of it being farmed.
There is no surprise the system is being reviewed after an Aberdeenshire “farmer” received the highest subsidy payment from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) system, claiming £3m in 2015. Frank Smart is a “slipper farmer” who buys land for the subsidies and lets them out to be farmed by other people. With this stopped, entitled farmers would have more chance of being paid on time.
Mr Eustice also said that farmers would have to deliver “ecosystem services” such as enhancing wildlife in return for payments, he said. They would also receive funds to invest in new equipment to become more efficient. “The type of support I’m interested in exploring is support to help farmers improve productivity and profitability.” He also said that subsidies would be available to support young entrepreneurs interested in farming especially as the average age of farmers is 59. The future of farming needs to be protected.
Defra Minister George Eustice also said that direct payments could come to an end after 2020. He said that the Government will have a funded agricultural policy but he is keen to move away from subsidies that equal direct payment. He is keen on a strategy which involves environmental performance and sustainability tied into subsidy payments. Which would see farmers funding linked to reducing flood risk, supporting wildlife habitats or storing soil carbon.
He said he would rather see farmers supported in growth, new technology and making farming more efficient as well as supporting young farmers.
Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS)
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