England's countryside is getting set for its most fundamental shift in farm policy for 50 years, as the government has outlined radical change after the Brexit transition period.
Under the new system, named Environmental Land Management (ELM), farmers will get paid if they prevent floods, plant woods, and help wildlife.
George Eustice, Environment Secretary, told BBC Breakfast that the changes to farm policy would not happen overnight, and that food prices “will remain broadly stable”.
The changes apply to England only, with the Devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland devising their own plans.
New grant system & lump-sum payment
Under the outgoing EU system, richer farmers receive more grant money, with the money from the taxpayer based on the amount of land they farm.
Ministers have criticised the EU policy, saying it was morally wrong because it paid the biggest government subsidies to the richest farmers.
Under the new government plans, farms will be paid grants for various reasons. These include:
Protecting 'heritage' farm buildings and stone wallsExpanding hedgesCapturing carbon in soils and cutting pesticidesNatural flood management including restoring river bendsLandscape recovery, restoring peatland and planting new woodsReducing antibioticsImproving animal health and welfare
The government has confirmed a lump-sum payment will be offered to those who are unwilling to adjust to the new system, and want to retire “with dignity”.
The new grant system is designed to increase the productivity of the UK’s lower level farms, with experts saying younger farms are typically more willing to try out new methods.
A document published on Monday revealed that old area-based subsidies will be halved by 2024 and abolished by 2028. The money saved from this will be transferred into the new environmental ELM system.
Sustainable Farming Incentive
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has created what it calls the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). This was made in response to complaints from farmers that the hurdles to qualify for ELM grants were too high.
The SFI will reward farms for basic activities on their land, including crop rotation, soil conservation and stopping chemicals polluting waterways.
Environmentalists have said the actions shouldn't be rewarded by the taxpayer and these should exist as good practice.
The new grant system features three tiers, with the SFI the first tier.
Tier 2 is Local Nature Recovery, rewarding farmers for creating and restoring natural habitats and species management. Tier 3 is Landscape Recovery, which will focus on landscape and ecosystem restoration.