Ministers must create a National Agricultural Group which brings civil servants from all Government departments together to ensure a joined-up food and farming policy after Brexit, says Stuart Agnew MEP.
The opportunity to design a food, farming and land management policy for the UK is one of the highlights and biggest challenges of the post-Brexit landscape.
Repatriating the finances of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) means efforts to create a coherent and rational policy for food, farming and the environment can be focused to make huge improvements to well-being, productivity and growth throughout the UK.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove has cleverly utilised the opportunities Brexit will bring us in managing our farm and environmental policy to champion the leavers’ cause in the negotiating process.
A ban on live animal exports, not possible under single market rules, is a key example.
The advantages of independence are of course something UKIP has championed all along. But we think he could go further.
We acknowledge budgets are tight, and the current direct payments system lacks merit, but we do not think the budget should be used for environmental measures alone, as Mr Gove seems to suggest.
The safe and secure provision of food underpins the entire UK economy, so an economy-wide approach to policy-making is needed too.
Policy areas directly or indirectly impacting on farm businesses include industrial strategy, taxation, competition law, health, trade, employment, planning and environmental policy.
There are often necessary trade-offs between policy objectives, for example between industrial strategy and environmental protection, or trade policy and rural vibrancy.
The web of food, dietary and health matters, and how agricultural systems could enable healthier populations, is another tangle.
But there are also tangible local conflicts, such as where a project to invest in high welfare, technologically advanced animal housing is prevented by local planning decisions.
Or more subtle economic hindrances, such as how inheritance tax exemptions work as a disincentive to diversify farm business income streams away from exposure to agricultural market volatility.
It would be better if a single, coherent approach to agricultural policy is developed in one place, so these policy conflicts can be understood and managed accordingly.
With a coherent, cross-departmental approach to policy thinking in food and farming, it should be possible to create a much greater impact for a smaller total Government budget.
For this reason, we would argue for a cross-sector Government body to be created to guide policy thinking in the food, farming and environmental sector.
A National Agricultural Group could bring in to one place civil servants from all of the relevant ministries and agencies, and the devolved administrations, to work together on cross-cutting food and farming themes, breaking down traditional ministry and competency silos to bring a more coherent and intelligent approach to our independent food and farming policy.
Direct payments should go, but intelligent, integrated support for the sector should stay.