Farmers told to change mindset when UK leaves EU

George Eustice, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said farmers need to be rewarded for what they do
George Eustice, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said farmers need to be rewarded for what they do

Post-Brexit agricultural policy should steer a "change in mindset for farmers", according to Farming Minister George Eustice.

George Eustice, the Defra Minister of State for Agriculture described his vision for post-Brexit agricultural policy at a recent event in Cornwall.

The event attracted more than 70 people to Healey's Cyder Farm, near Truro on Friday 11 May.

Mr Eustice stated that he saw new policy as "rewarding and incentivising farmers for what they do, and not subsidising them for income lost."

He told the audience: "The end state we seek is support, not based on the amount of land that they own, but to reward them for helping the environment, water quality and to changes in husbandry to deliver for the environment and research and development into more productive working practices."

He laid out the timetable for actions going forward and re-iterated the importance of getting the Agricultural Bill through parliament this autumn.

He expressed his fear that this would be a "dangerous time to let things slip", and by "October 2018, we would need to have a clear idea for arrangements in the future".

The consultation document ‘The future for food, farming and the environment' which will form the basis of the Bill, has been out to consultation since February and closed on 8 May.

It has received over 44,000 responses, with 20,000 of these in the last week alone, and the Minister commented that he is "looking forward" to reviewing them.

'Early adopters'

The Camborne, Redruth and Hayle MP spoke of the need for "early adopters" of any new scheme and that the reduction in single farm payment to the very largest farmers, as suggested in the consultation document, should be seen as a gradual migration, rather than penalising those larger farmers.

Mr Eustice also pointed out the importance of stress testing the scheme to ensure that the mechanisms put in place work effectively and efficiently.

He said this would be much easier to achieve with a smaller cohort moving through the system first, whilst also giving those smaller, family farms enough time to make the changes necessary.

He also said that government does not want to "dictate people's businesses" and therefore will not be telling farmers how to run their businesses - it will be up to them to decide at what level, if any, they would like to engage.

The Minister reminded the audience that post-Brexit the UK will be a "free country that is able to make our own laws and draft our own law", and farmers and others should maintain a dialogue with government who will be "open to innovative and creative ideas for the future".