Many farmers or rural land owners have in recent years done well through the Common Agricultural Policy or (“CAP”) though one effect has been to increase farm land prices. Though some complained about Europe the UK farmers and rural land owners received in “direct payments” about £3.5 billion a year. This largely because direct payments were based on land ownership so the more you owned the more you got.
We have a devolved country. One effect being that the Scottish and Welsh are taking their own courses for the way out post Brexit. This short article is limited to England.
Though farmers and land owners will be allowed 7 years within which the English government have guaranteed the security farmers have had under CAP there is a new Agriculture Act with very different priorities called by some a “landmark” change.
The changes need carefully to be considered together with the new Environment Bill and an act which should become law this year. Plus the Sustainable Farming Incentive amongst others.
For me the main changes apart from the end of European Control through the new Agriculture Act are;
- There is a change in farming or land use payments from land ownership and as many would see “money for being rich enough to own land” to the concept of “public good”. This means land owners need to change and consider the possibility of payments for good environmental use or benefit for their land or animal welfare improvements,
- Though some might find that Brussels (particularly due to the French influence) was kinder to them the UK government takes back its right to consider agriculture with power to step in to the agricultural market,
- Many felt that under CAP there was a lack of transparency in the system. The new view is there will be more openness between the land owner and the farm,
- In return it is intended there will be more following and checking from field to plate,
- As we lose CAP and risk losing markets we must also be willing to open our market to others. The effect is we will be moving to ensure what we do complies with the World Trade Organisation Arrangements for Agriculture. Though I suspect if we are to keep markets in Europe our arrangements will need to be at least as good as those in Europe and
- Using the chance to ring a change within a passing of an act. The old Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 has for many seemed overdue for changes and this act will ring the amendments.
For many we will be going back to pre 1973 agriculture after the wind down period is over. For others this is a “landmark” change of direction. As we have increasingly less agricultural land available it is also equally likely that we will be looking not at money for land use and larger harvests but better harvests more environmentally obtained. Something to be inserted within every farm or land owners next business plan. Or thought when preparing the next 10 year contract farming arrangement.
If I can help please email me.
The above are my views in a quickly changing market.
David Hassall LLM Msc
Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association.