‘Brexit betrayal!’ Farmer fury as UK fails to ditch ‘impoverishing’ EU rules after 6 years

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Writing to Environment Secretary George Eustice, the farmers demanded the implementation of the Environmental Land Management Scheme, which is the post-Brexit farming subsidy that was slated to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The EU policy is widely criticised for its failures, with British farmers arguing that the CAP promoted bad agricultural practices, which decreased productivity and kept farmers further away from achieving net-zero goals. 

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dustin Benton, Policy Director of Green Alliance, said: “It’s been six years since the UK decided to leave the EU, on the explicit promise that this would enable us to restore nature and ditch the really quite bad Common Agricultural Policy. 

“Today, there is one small part of one of the three post-CAP schemes that most farmers can actually join, with no real visibility over Local Nature Recovery or Landscape Recovery (the other two schemes).

“Right now it feels like a promise deferred, at best. 

“Turning SFI into something that looks like CAP (which is one of the proposals that has been put forward by some farm lobbyists) would count as a betrayal.”

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), is one of the Government’s post-Brexit agricultural subsidy schemes with a promise to increase coverage to reach more farmers. 

Currently, the farming lobby is pushing the Government to extend the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which is the largest subsidy scheme farmers can access under CAP. 

According to an EU Commission report, about 64 percent of the budget of the BPS is sent to 20 percent of the farm landowners who own large scale farms and who already tend to be more massively profitable than smaller farmers.

Mr Benton added: “If you want to support small farmers to navigate the challenges of rising input prices, it’s madness to extend a scheme that spends two-thirds of the budget on the most profitable 20 percent of farms, leaving – at best – one-third of the budget for small farms.”

Aside from the benefits only going towards large scale farmers, the CAP is also criticised for not rewarding farmers who make a rapid shift to net zero, which was a key point in the letter written by the farmers.

In a press release, James Robinson, Vice-Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network Steering Group, said: “It is clear that farmers across the country want a subsidy system that facilitates climate – and nature-friendly farming. 

“Not just to take greater heed of the environment in what we do, but to build a robust, reliable and secure food system.” 

In the statement, Mr Benton added: “For the last 50 years CAP paid farmers on low-productivity land to grow more and all it did was impoverish hardworking upland farmers. 

“The UK’s approach of using Landscape Recovery and Local Nature Recovery to help farmers on land with lower productivity make money by restoring nature and storing carbon is absolutely the right approach. 

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“Scrapping it because of what’s happening in Ukraine is not sensible.”

A Defra spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We have set out comprehensive details of our new schemes, which support profitable food production and incentivise sustainable practices which will benefit the environment.

“We are working with more than 3000 farmers to trial and implement the new approach which works for both large and small businesses by supporting the choices which farmers make for their own holdings.”

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