Chancellor Philip Hammond announced this week that any agri-environment schemes farmers sign up to before the Autumn Statement will be fully funded, even if they continue to run after the UK leaves the European Union.
The statement follows Country Land and Business Association (CLA) encouragement for land managers to apply for 2017 agreements earlier this year as ‘the environmental outcomes delivered under these schemes are too important to be lost’.
Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom welcomed the decision, saying:
“This guarantee of funding is excellent news for our farmers and our environment. I’m delighted we can provide this crucial certainty and continuity to our rural communities while we develop a new approach to supporting agriculture and protecting our precious countryside.”
But the announcement received a lukewarm reception from industry bodies, with CLA President Ross Murray commenting:
“While this is an important and welcome announcement, there are still crucial decisions to be made for the longer-term.
“We are urging Government to commit to working with farmers and land managers to establish a fully funded, world-leading domestic Food, Farming and Environment Policy. This should be designed to ensure a resilient farming sector alongside work to protect and enhance the environment, and it must be in place ready to succeed and better the EU Common Agricultural Policy from 2021.”
Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, said:
“We were pleased to see the Chancellor put a bit of certainty into the situation where many farmers are coming out of old ag-environmental schemes and are considering their options. At least we now know there will be funding pre-2020.
“However, we remain concerned that the new Countryside Stewardship schemes are not attracting the numbers first projected. The Chancellor might have committed some money for the furnace but it’s still not clear if the train is on track or has enough passengers to make it viable.”