Greens launch radical ideas for agriculture post-Brexit in response to ‘no plan’ from government

* Direct payments based on land area to be scrapped with payments retargeted towards rewarding farmers for providing public benefits

* Farmers to receive payments for safeguarding and improving the environment

* Focus on meeting UK demands for food instead of putting export markets first

* Introduce VAT on meat products

* Ban the routine preventative use of antibiotics

Molly, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, has launched two reports on ideas for the future of farming post-Brexit.

The reports are launched as it becomes clear the government lacks a vision for the future of agriculture [1]. One report is by the Soil Association, the well-known food and farming charity; the other by Simon Fairlie of the Land Workers’ Alliance.

Both reports foresee a future where policies put soil health and biodiversity first, and where the way we use land helps tackle climate change. They agree that to achieve this, farmers will need to receive at least as much money as they currently get through the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). However, they say direct payments based on land area should be scrapped and retargeted at paying farmers for the public benefits they provide. They also call for additional funding for advice, training, and farmer-led research and innovation.

Other more radical ideas from Simon Fairlie include a shift away from export markets so UK farmers can focus on meeting UK demands for food; 20% VAT on processed meat products, and ‘polluter pays’ labelling on food products which involve the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and GM materials. Meanwhile the Soil Association calls for a new national agroforestry strategy, a ban on the routine preventative use of antibiotics, and using procurement to drive demand for locally produced, especially organic, food.

Molly said:

“We have a government that is not only clueless on how to improve the lot of our farmers and food producers, but is also chasing damaging trade deals with the US and Canada which would weaken the higher EU standards that have shaped UK agriculture over the last 40 years.

“The absence of any plan for our food and farming sectors is even more alarming given the extreme form of Brexit that Theresa May’s government is pushing for. Around 65% of total UK agricultural exports go to the EU, while around 70% of the UK’s imports originate from other EU countries. Removing us from the single market risks punitive tariffs on exports and imports, while an end to free movement would make it impossible to take on the seasonal migrant labour from EU countries so crucial to many farms.

“Yet Brexit could be a unique opportunity to move towards an ecologically sustainable farming system; one that focuses on supporting family farms and relocalising food production, thereby creating thriving rural communities. We can also refocus land management to encourage biodiversity, improve animal welfare and help tackle climate change.  

“These two reports do something that the government seem incapable of doing – providing a wealth of exciting and innovative ideas for policy makers, farmers, food producers and rural communities. But ultimately what happens to farming will affect us all as it will shape the future of our economic, social, environmental and physical landscapes”.

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 our report”.

Further information about the two reports.

[1] Response to Parliamentary Question 63096 asked by Caroline Lucas MP:

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (63096):

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what research the Government has commissioned in the last six months to inform the development of agricultural and environmental policy once the UK leaves the EU. (63096)

Tabled on: 06 February 2017

Answer from George Eustice:

Defra invests a significant amount in agricultural and environmental research to underpin policy development and implementation. Much of this is relevant to the development of future policy in the context of EU exit.

However, research specifically to inform agricultural and environmental policy once the UK leaves the EU, which is distinct from the department’s on-going research programmes, has not been commissioned in the last 6 months.

The answer was submitted on 09 Feb 2017 at 17:54.