Thursday, 13 January 2022

Future Agricultural Policy

This week, I have set out more detail of our future agriculture policy. The system of subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy inflated land rents, denied new entrants access to the land and dumped a whole host of absurd and burdensome rules on our farmers.

We are now embarking on a period of change. We have been able to directly involve farmers in designing our policies so we have the best chance of getting it right.
 
Successful and profitable agricultural production is crucial to the continued success of our food manufacturing industry. The food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined, and we have some brilliant examples right here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle – from Rodda’s clotted cream to Philps pasties and Furniss biscuits. None of our food manufacturers could succeed without the farmers who supply them with high-quality produce.
 
Since the 2016 referendum result, farm incomes have generally recovered. We have seen the price of beef and sheep running at very strong levels. We’ve seen gross margins in some of the cereal sectors increase by around 30%. Now, the shape of our future policy is emerging and we are already rolling out elements of it.
 
We’ve already launched our new Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. This means that any livestock farmer who’s currently a claimant of BPS will be entitled to a funded visit from a vet once a year to put in place an animal health strategy.
 
We’ve also set out plans for the Sustainable Farming Incentive. This is all about trying to incentivise a more sustainable approach to farming right across the farm landscape. Initially, we’re focusing on promoting soil health, but there will be future modules on things like sensitive hedgerow management. Here in Cornwall, we have always looked after our hedgerows and small fields and it is right that our farmers are rewarded accordingly.
 
We are increasing the payment rates for Countryside Stewardship by, on average, 30%.  For those who have not yet engaged with Countryside Stewardship, I would urge them all to look again at it as it will provide a stepping stone to Local Nature Recovery. Most holdings have a part of the farm that is perhaps not really suitable for crop production, less productive, or difficult to work. There is an opportunity to make those parts of the holding a special space for nature – which we will reward under that scheme.
 
The final component of our future policy is Landscape Recovery. This is going to be about much more fundamental land-use change. To begin with, we are looking for 15 projects ranging in size from around 500 hectares to 5,000 hectares.
 
I’ve always said that this should be an evolution, not a revolution, and at the heart of our policies is ensuring that we support farmers to make the choices that they want to make for their own holdings.

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