Gove delivers speech at Oxford Farming Conference
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, has delivered a speech this morning at the Oxford Farming Conference. The full text of the speech is available on GOV.UK.
A "Command Paper" should be published "later this spring" which should lay out proposed plans for future agricultural support, which will be subject to consultation. Mr. Gove has however set out a "direction of travel" which he believes should be about helping "land owners and managers to make the transition from our current system of subsidy to a new approach of public money for public goods over time."
He has confirmed that 91% of BPS 2017 claimants received a payment by 31st December 2017 and that BPS 2019 will be on the same basis as now. A new Chair is to be sought to work alongside the RPA's CEO to "drive further improvement."
He says that he envisages "guaranteeing that BPS payments continue for a transition period in England, which could last a number of years beyond the implementation period, depending on consultation." He goes on to say that, "During this time, we propose to first reduce the largest BPS payments in England. We could do this through a straight cap at a maximum level or through a sliding scale of reductions, to the largest payments first. After the implementation period, this transitional payment could be paid to the recipient without the need to comply with all the onerous existing cross-compliance rules and procedures ... This should provide every existing farmer who receives BPS payments with a guaranteed income over this extended transition period. That guaranteed income should provide time for farmers to change their business model if necessary, help to make the investment necessary for any adjustments and prepare for the future ... And, after that transition, we will replace BPS with a system of public money for public goods." In the subsequent questions session, Mr. Gove said that his proposal is that there should be a five year transition period post-BPS 2019, which would see BPS remaining in England until 2024 but with the introduction of a cap as laid out above.
In relation to Countryside Stewardship, he has stated that support will continue for Countryside Stewardship agreements entered into before the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019 and that he "will ensure that no one in an existing scheme is unfairly disadvantaged when we transition to new arrangements."
In terms of future agricultural support, he has said that previous agri-environment and Countryside Stewardship schemes will be built upon to "design a scheme accessible to almost any land owner or manager who wishes to enhance the natural environment by planting woodland, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, contributing to improved water quality and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows and other more natural states." Additional money will also be made available for landscape scale collaboration. There should also be investment in "technology and skills alongside infrastructure, public access and rural resilience."