Post-Brexit political chaos may mean farmers miss out on nature-friendly payments | Agriculture

Farmers could lose thousands of pounds after government chaos on post-Brexit nature-friendly agricultural programs made them not apply.

These programs were developed to replace the old system of EU subsidies for farmers, who paid according to the amount of land they managed. The new English system would instead pay for public goods like improving the environment and enrich biodiversity.

But long delays in implementing the schemes – first proposed by Michael Gove when he was environment secretary in 2018, but repeatedly delayed since then – have fueled concern they could be diluted or abandoned altogether.

In September, when Liz Truss became Prime Minister, the Revealed Observer that the government was now seeking to weaken or abolish the regimes. The new environment secretary, Thérèse Coffeyhas since reassured farm groups that the schemes will remain almost entirely unscathed, with a full update expected in the coming weeks.

Pilot programs, known as the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), are now in place and will serve as a taste of how the Environmental Land Management (Elms) program will work ideally before it is fully implemented. Programs pay farmers to improve soil qualityand Countryside Stewardship (CS), which covers things like trees, air quality, and water quality.

But new figures, given in response to a parliamentary written question, show that fewer than 2,000 claims have been submitted to the SFI out of a farming community of around 83,000 businesses, a rate Labor calls “pitifully low”.

The payments are designed to protect food security and business stability in rural and farming communities. Farmers face problems such as soaring fuel, feed and fertilizer costs.

Labor is calling on the government to immediately confirm long-term funding for the SFI and says that in office it would enshrine fundamental environmental and welfare standards to protect UK farmers in trade deals.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, the shadow agriculture minister, said: ‘The recent chaos and confusion around environmental land management schemes has scared off farmers and conservationists, and done nothing to help British farmers. It is not surprising that the adoption of sustainable development Agriculture The incentive has been pitifully weak, with farmers having no guarantee that the goal posts will not be moved again and support will not be undermined. The new Secretary of State must act quickly to reassure our farmers so they can continue to produce good British food for the country.

Martin Lines, the president of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, agreed that the government’s flip-flop on the issue has deterred farmers from registering.

He told the Guardian: ‘The confusion over politics over the summer and the language of a pause or change in what Elms will be has left farmers unwilling to engage.

“Farmers who can access it really need to log on to the website and see how easy it is to access money for things they could already do, or should already do, to make their business more profitable and creating soil that is sufficient for food security in the future.

Lines grows winter cereals in south Cambridgeshire and had postponed registration until this weekend, but found that those with enough land can get several thousand pounds for applying.

“I did mine over the weekend, I had it postponed and I didn’t think it would be a lot of money, but when you go through the system and add it up, you get a lot of money “, did he declare. .

A Defra spokesperson said: ‘We support UK farmers and in fact have had very positive uptake of the sustainable farming incentive with over 4,000 applications launched, as well as good feedback on the speed and simplicity of the process.

“This is a much higher application rate than we would typically see in the first few months of other popular programs like Countryside Stewardship.”

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