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Rushed policy transition could leave farm businesses at a ‘cliff edge’ after Brexit, says CLA president

PUBLISHED: 10:48 24 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:53 24 April 2018

Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer is the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer is the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

CLA

A rushed transition to a new UK farming policy – based on sharp drops in direct subsidy payments – could leave farm businesses “at a cliff edge”, said an East Anglian landowners’ leader.

Tim Breitmeyer, who farms near the Cambridgeshire-Essex border, is the national president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which has warned against a poorly-devised transition phase as British farming is removed from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy after Brexit.

The government is currently running a 10-week consultation on its proposals to phase out the current system of land-based subsidy payments, in favour of a new scheme which rewards farmers for providing “public goods” such as environmental enhancements. The options under consideration include progressive reductions in direct payments, or a fixed cap which could be reduced year on year.

The CLA has set out three pre-conditions which it says must be met before beginning a gradual transition: to have absolute clarity on the long-term EU/UK trade arrangements; a clear plan for investing in boosting agricultural productivity during transition; and clarity on how the long-term replacement system will work for all sectors.

And, once under way, it says reductions in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments should take place in “manageable increments spread across the farming industry, not through arbitrary caps that will put larger farming operations at serious business risk”.

READ MORE: ‘Food security is not something we should take for granted’ – NFU president Minette Batters’ action call to Norfolk farmers

Mr Breitmeyer said: “A policy where profitable food production and environmental work go hand in hand, based on a framework of realistic payment for delivering public goods, is the right long-term approach. But it will only be achieved through a carefully-planned transition that gives all farm businesses the time and the certainty they need to adapt and prepare for a new policy that has been rigorously tested and has broad support.

“Bringing the current system to a hurried end before the new policy is up and running will leave farm businesses at a cliff edge. An industry in crisis will not be able to forge a strong and sustainable future for food, farming and the environment.

“This is why, once it starts the transition phase must see BPS payments reduced in small increments rather than abrupt drops and an arbitrary cap. At the same time, government and land managers must work together to bring in a coherent scheme for fair payment for public goods work.

“Finally, government can champion the move to a new future for farming through targeted incentives to improve productivity and support for market development.”

• To respond to the consultation, go to the Defra consultation website before the deadline of May 8.

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