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National Farmers’ Union proposes four-year transition to post-Brexit agricultural policy

PUBLISHED: 08:28 19 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:28 19 October 2017

The NFU and AHDB Brexit briefing at the East of England Showground in Peterborough. Pictured: Nick von Westenholz, the NFU’s director of EU and international trade. Picture: Chris Hill.

The NFU and AHDB Brexit briefing at the East of England Showground in Peterborough. Pictured: Nick von Westenholz, the NFU’s director of EU and international trade. Picture: Chris Hill.

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Farming leaders want the government to adopt a three-phase transition period after Brexit, leading to a new domestic agricultural policy from 2023.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has published its suggested framework for a domestic agricultural policy, based on the three “cornerstones” of productivity, environment and volatility.

Nick von Westenholz, the NFU’s director of EU and international trade, introduced the document to an audience of about 100 farmers at the East of England Showground in Peterborough.

He said he believed the government’s only option in the immediate aftermath of Brexit in March 2019 would be to replicate the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, creating a CAP legacy regime which should remain for two years to allow a phase of “review and assessment”.

“By that time it should become clear what the landing point is for Brexit, and we are urging the government to do an impact assessment during that period,” he said. “When we have that, we can move to the establishment of the new policy framework in phase three.

“We are not talking about an iterative transition, where things change little by little, year on year. We think there should be some sort of ‘big bang’ – with as much notice as possible, there should be a moment when we move from a legacy regime to a new domestic agricultural policy.”

Mr von Westenholz said while much of the current public and political debate centred on the environment, it was crucial that any future policy balanced those concerns with improving productivity and managing volatility and risk.

“All of these complement each other,” he said. “If we don’t put enough emphasis on one of these, we don’t get full value from the others. They are more than the sum of their parts and that is something we are trying to impress on the government.”

While volatility in the sector is currently largely managed through direct subsidy payments, Mr von Westenholz suggested a more targeted “tool box” of mitigation and resilience measures including crisis management funds, match-funded and deferred tax savings schemes, futures markets and forward contracts.

For productivity, the NFU’s framework looks at improving efficiencies through measures including planning policy, research and development and broadband infrastructure, and Mr von Westenholz also suggested a return to a two-tiered approach to environmental management, similar to previous stewardship schemes, with capital grants for environmental investments available across both.

The meeting also heard a presentation from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) on its Horizon report modelling the potential impact of Brexit scenarios on farming incomes.

READ MORE: Top 25pc of farm businesses will succeed regardless of Brexit scenarios, says AHDB.

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