The British government has found no way to measure whether £ 2.4bn of annual post-Brexit farm payments will provide value for money and has failed to support it. English farmers according to a damning report from parliament’s Committee on Public Affairs, a sharp cut on EU-style subsidies is facing.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has repeatedly missed its own planned milestones for the unveiling of the new green payment system, the report released on Sunday reads.
It added that the department had acknowledged that without further details, its own confidence in the scheme could appear to be “just blind optimism as far as farmers are concerned”.
The committee’s report, chaired by Labor MP Meg Hillier, follows a series of announcements on the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which set up Boris Johnson’s government in England to replace the EU’s common agricultural policy.
Ministers set out plans for three parts of the scheme based on payments for environmental work, but farming groups have become increasingly vocal about concerns that there are not enough details in place.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Conservative MP who serves as deputy chair of the committee, said: “We have known that we have been replacing the CAP since 2016 and we still do not see any clear plans, goals or communication with those on the sharp side – farmers – in this multi-billion pound, radical revision of the way land is used and, more importantly, food is produced in this country.
“Farmers . . . has been left in the dark and it is simply wrong for Defra’s own business planning failures to fail to undermine the certainty that is crucial to a critical national sector. ”
He warned that small and tenant farms, operating on “waffle-thin” margins, run the risk of doing business during the transition, as they make a typical annual net profit of just £ 22,800 a year without subsidies.
This would mean that “the average size of farms will increase and some of the environmental benefits of [the new system] will be lost, ”Clifton-Brown said.
Farmers have previously been handed over so-called direct payments based on land area, but they face half of that by 2024-’25 by 2024-’25 as EU-style subsidies are phased out to prepare for the post-Brexit scheme. The payments accounted for more than half of farming business income, or net profit, on grain, arable farming, grazing livestock and mixed farms in 2020-’21, according to official data.
The committee also echoed farmers’ concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the new scheme – in particular that its incentives to convert agricultural land to other uses, such as forestry, would lead to an increase in food imports, affecting the ecological impact of food produced. will effectively “execute”. for British plates.
Defra did not set out targets or targets to ensure that the payments provide value for money or contribute to the country’s target of achieving “net zero” emissions by 2050, the committee said.
Without clarity on these goals, “the government’s promised green Brexit looks more and more out of sight,” said Dustin Benton, policy director at the charity Green Alliance.
George Eustice, environmental secretary, said: “We do not agree with many of the points made by the committee that do not take into account recent developments.
“Farm incomes have improved significantly since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 and there will never be a better time to improve the way our farmers are rewarded.”
Tom Bradshaw, vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “Farmers in England are extremely concerned about the development of ELMs and this report from the PAC should serve as a wake-up call for the government.”