Leadsom: farmers will be incentivised to be green

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom told the National Farmers Union conference on Tuesday that promoting environmental improvement was one of five key principles that would underpin the future development of the farming industry.

She noted that at present and under the Common Agricultural Policy, only a small percentage of funding is directed towards the provision of environmental services, despite farmers’ dual role as food producers and custodians of our land and water.

She said this should be addressed post Brexit: “So as we leave the EU, we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at these schemes and think about what mechanisms are needed to promote the twin goals of productive farming and environmental improvement. I want to consider, for example, how we will strike the right balance between national frameworks for support measures whilst tailoring them to local landscapes and catchments. And how can we incentivise as many farmers as possible to undertake environmental improvements on their land?”

DEFRA ministers have previously signalled Payments for Ecosystem Services would be part of the post Brexit picture. Leadsom said she was unable right now to provide details on the many issues farmers are hungry for clarity on – “such as the future of direct payments, the prospects for seasonal agricultural workers, and access to the single market to name just a few” – as this would pre-empt the government’s negotiations with the EU. Instead she shared her “ambition for a future, more prosperous farming industry”.