Defra ministers are considering capping direct payments at £100,000, with only the very smallest farmers expected to receive any Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) cash by 2024, Farmers Guardian has learned.
If the plans go ahead, they will be outlined in the Government’s upcoming command paper, with the £100,000 cap coming into effect in 2020 or 2021.
Such a cap would only save 9 per cent of the total English budget, but it would affect a few thousand applicants with about 400 hectares (1,000 acres), mostly in the east.
It is thought the cap will continue to drop throughout the ‘transition period’ outlined by Defra Secretary Michael Gove in his speech to Oxford Farming Conference, which the Government hopes to end in 2024 – subject to consultation.
Mr Gove has previously described large BPS payments as ‘plain wrong’ because they support the wealthy, but there are some in the industry who have questioned the direction of travel.
Speaking at a Euractiv Brexit event in London this week, Susan Twining, chief land use policy adviser at the CLA, said: “Michael Gove has made it quite clear there is likely to be a cap on the subsidy payments for larger growers, producers or BPS recipients.
“I think there is a question around whether this is the right thing to be doing, whether it is actually going to achieve what he would like to achieve.
“There are arguments for and against.”
The National Trust, one of the biggest recipients of BPS cash, has accepted the amount of funding it gets in future may fall.
Patrick Begg, outdoors and natural resources director at the charity, said it was ‘critical’ the Government started to back up its commitments on farming support with real resources.
“This means focusing money liberated by capping to support the natural and historic environment, as well as wider public benefits”, he added.
The Government’s revamped Countryside Stewardship scheme, which guarantees cash to any farmer who makes a valid application, could offer an alternative revenue stream for those losing out due to any BPS cap.
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