Michael Gove: UK to reward farmers for environmental practices post-Brexit

Michael Gove will indicate that the UK will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-Brexit with a system that gives subsidies to farmers who try to enhance the natural environment.

The Defra Secretary, who has vowed to revitalise agriculture through a “Green Brexit”, will today (4 January) say a new approach would incentivise farmers to plant woodland, provide new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity and help to improve water quality.

CAP is widely criticised for paying landowners for the amount of land they own. Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference today, Gove is set to scorn the “injust, inefficient” regime which hands out around £2.1bn annually for the land-based (BPS) “Basic Payment System”.

“It gives the most from the public purse to those who have the most private wealth,” he will say. “It bids up the price of land, distorting the market, creating a barrier to entry for innovative new farmers and entrenching lower productivity.

“Indeed, perversely, it rewards farmers for sticking to methods of production that are resource-inefficient and also incentivises an approach to environmental stewardship which is all about mathematically precise field margins and not truly ecologically healthy landscapes.”

Gove’s plans will offer additional funds to farmers who work together to make environmental improvements at “landscape scale”. The proposals, due to be published in the Spring, will likely involve a five-year transition to enable farmers to prepare for the changes post-Brexit.

The importance of natural capital will also be addressed in Gove’s speech. “It allows us to bed into policy-making a direct appreciation of the importance of field and forest, river and wetland, healthy soil and air free from pollution,” he said.

Hands-on approach

Gove has surprised many with his hands-on approach since taking on the role of Environment Secretary. His vision of a “Green Brexit” has seen a pledge to consult on the creation of a new independent environment body to hold the Government to account over green standards when the UK leaves the EU.

Other key policy measures introduced by Gove include a ban on pesticides and a consultation on a national plastic bottle deposit return scheme, as a way to reduce the UK’s levels of plastic pollution.

His Department is this month due to a release the 25-Year Environment Plan, which will map out various pledges to improve specific areas of the environment including water, natural capital, air quality and resource efficiency. 

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie