A new paper by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), has suggested that farmers could enter agreements post-Brexit to provide public benefits in return for guaranteed payments.
The rural organisation, which represents landowners and farmers, has detailed how its new public goods scheme could work for farming by replacing the existing payments received via Common Agricultural Policy subsidies.
The report calls on the Government to create a “Land Management Contract” for England as part of a new national agricultural policy once UK farming transitions away from the current system of direct payment.
This contract should be structured as a commercial business proposition, with the farmer entering a contract to provide public benefits in return for payments.
The CLA said that the significant opportunities for environmental improvement and public benefits would only be achievable if such a scheme attracts farmers by making financial sense.
In order to achieve this, the new public goods scheme would require the Government to commit to transferring the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding, which is currently £2.2 billion a year in England.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove announced earlier this year that farmers will receive money to make improvements to the environment under a new system of subsidies, which will reward farmers for planting wildlife habitats, woods, wildflower meadows and other environmental benefits after Britain leaves the European Union.
In the meantime the Government has agreed to continue its BPS payments during a transition period in England, which should last several years beyond the implementation period.
Tim Breitmeyer, CLA President, said: “For a long time the CLA has advocated a policy that incentivises land managers to deliver public goods like creating new habitats for wildlife, action to improve soil quality and delivering high standards of animal welfare.
“There is now clear political will to support this approach, but it is crucial that this milestone towards a sustainable future for the countryside is thoughtfully designed and well delivered,” Mr Breitmeyer added.
“If the scheme does not make good business sense, and is not designed to work alongside profitable food production, the opportunity will be lost.”