Defra is unprepared for a significant chunk of farmers to ‘hunker down and live on fresh air’ when direct payments are removed, according to an industry expert.
Jeremy Moody, adviser at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), made the remarks at a National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) conference in Durham on February 13.
His comments follow a warning from agricultural academic Dr Ludivine Petetin that the department has made a conscious decision to let a quarter of the UK’s least efficient farms ‘disappear’ after Brexit.
Mr Moody said: “The removal of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is a stick. It forces change.
“Defra actually sees it as a very powerful tool, and they are right. But what they may not necessarily see is farming is capable of taking one of two different roads.
“The road we are looking to go down is the road of improved productivity, enhanced economic activity, quality, competitiveness and profitability.
“There are an awful lot of people, though, who could just absorb the pain, hunker down and live on fresh air.”
Mr Moody went on to explain he believed there were some people in the department who assume all farmers are only interested in maximising profits.
“But there are quite a lot of people farming for other reasons,” he said.
“It is a form of land management and it is an expression of identity. There are a variety of reasons which mean people will not necessarily react immediately to any economic stimulus.”
Lord Curry, who was also speaking at the conference, agreed and called on the Government to ensure businesses would have enough support to change as BPS is phased out.
“There are a significant number of farmers who are going to require quite serious handholding through this transition,” he said.
“One of the responsibilities I have is chair of the Prince’s Countryside Fund. We launched a farm resilience programme three years ago and we are having discussions with Defra about how that might be rolled out.”
Lord Curry’s call was supported by Julia Aglionby, executive director at the Foundation for Common Land, who used a recent article on Farmers Guardian’s Brexit hub to suggest the Government commit five per cent of the agriculture budget – £100 million a year – to helping farm businesses restructure.
To read Julia’s article in full click HERE.