Town & Country
THE CLA has unveiled an ambitious proposal for reform on the farm-payment system that ‘can truly harness the opportunities of leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and unlock a new lease of life for farming, our rural economy and communities across the countryside,’ says president Ross Murray.
At its crux is the removal of the much-maligned European Basic Payment Scheme, whereby landowners and farmers are paid based on the amount of land they own. Instead, a system that rewards those who manage their land in a publicly beneficial way is advocated. This new Land Management Contract would be transparent, so taxpayers would see where their money is going. ‘There is vital work to be done across our countryside… and these responsibilities bring costs and burdens that other businesses don’t have to bear,’ adds Mr Murray. ‘These are contracts that any farmer or forester, from the smallest hill farmer to the large estate owner, can undertake in return for a financial reward based on what they contribute, not the amount of land they own. Reform of this kind can end the divisive view that farmers are receiving subsidies for nothing.’ The Government has promised to keep overall payments at the same level until 2022 and Environment Secretary Michael Gove describes Brexit as ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas’. ‘Seventy per cent of our land is farmed—beautiful landscape has not happened by accident,’ he continues. ‘Agriculture is an industry more susceptible to outside shocks and unpredictable events, so financial assistance and mechanisms that can smooth out the vicissitudes farmers face make sense.’