Defra Minister George Eustice has said the Government will not stop farmers from spending ‘delinked payments’ on new Land Rovers.
Mr Eustice made the remarks in response to a question from Farmers Guardian at a Conservative Rural Forum (CRF) event at the Tory conference in Birmingham this week.
Under the terms of the recently-published Agriculture Bill, English farmers are to be offered the chance to take several years’ worth of farm payments in a lump sum, even if they are no longer working the land.
Ministers have suggested this ‘golden parachute’ will allow farmers who want to retire but lack the money to do so to leave the land, opening up opportunities for new entrants.
It is hoped the cash will also be used for on-farm investment or diversification activities.
But asked whether the Government planned to stop farmers spending the money on a new Land Rover, Mr Eustice said: “The short answer is we do not.
“The important thing to recognise is this would be a payment farmers would have received anyway if they had carried on farming the land.
“What we have to design is anti-avoidance provisions to go with it and we are looking at this. Probably it would be the case that if a farmer took a delinked payment on his farm, those land parcels would cease to be eligible for any future Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payment.
“This is basically all about preparing people for the world where we do not want there to be dependency on subsidies. It would be an option some might take.”
At last week’s Labour Party conference, Vicki Hird, farming campaign co-ordinator at Sustain, hit out at the delinked payments, suggesting they ‘would not get public acceptance’.