This report sets out six proposals for domestic agricultural policy after the UK leaves the EU. These ideas have the potential to transform farming and land use at the scale and pace required to meet multiple challenges – from tackling climate change and nature degradation to supporting rural livelihoods and improving public health. There is growing consensus on some of the key principles that should underlie new policy:
- We need to maintain high environmental and farm animal welfare standards.
- Public money should pay for public goods such as clean water, farmland wildlife, carbon storage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Government should maintain the overall annual farm payment budget of around £3.2 billion.
- We need a joined-up approach that looks at land in the round – farming, forestry, water, wilderness – taking account of public health, food poverty and international development.
- Policies must work for farmers and growers, and help them move towards sustainable business models.
- We need a renewed focus on supply chains to improve resilience, farmer incomes, and environmental sustainability.
- Public participation in debate and decisions on the future of farming is critical.
Dr Tom MacMillan, Director of Innovation at the Soil Association, said:
“We’re hearing a fair bit of consensus from farming, nature and public interest groups on the big principles for agricultural policy after we leave the CAP – that the public expect high standards on animal welfare, for example, and that public money should pay for public benefits. What’s missing are practical and inspiring ideas that seize the chance to make a better fist of it, and face up to monumental challenges like climate change. So we’ve tried to set out a few game changing ideas in this report.
“One potential game-changer is agroforestry, bringing trees into fields, which could up productivity, boost wildlife and help tackle climate change. If our government aimed for half of farms to try it, as the French are doing, it could be transformative.
“Another is to back practical innovation by farmers, putting just 10% of the £450m the UK spends each year on agricultural research into projects led by farmers. Many of the best ideas in farming already come from farmers, and we’ll depend on their ingenuity more than ever in this time of change.”