Agriculture Bill brings farmer payments for ecosystem services

The government's Agriculture Bill which it recently put before Parliament will reform the farm payment system to support the provision of "public goods" like water quality and quantity, and flood management.

In a written statement, environment secretary, Michael Gove, argued the Bill marked a “decisive shift” in how UK farmers are supported and fulfilled the government’s promise to deliver a Green Brexit. Gove said: “For too long, Brussels has set the rules on how we maintain and enhance our distinctive environment, and how we grow crops and improve food production. The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy has held back Britain, economically and environmentally. Bureaucracy has stifled innovation. Subsidies have been paid based on the size of individual land holdings, not the contribution farmers make to society. Habitats have been lost and soil health eroded.

“The Agriculture Bill sets out our new policy of paying public money for public goods. Its framework for investing money in wildlife habitats, clean air and water, and healthy soil – natural assets upon which our wellbeing and economic prosperity depend – will help reduce flood risk, prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure that the public enjoy easier access to our countryside. The Bill will help us leave the environment in a better state for future generations, as set out in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.”

The package includes a seven year transition period; measures to incentivise a long-term approach; help for new entrants; and transitional support schemes to enable on-farm investment – for example in equipment and technology to deliver public goods.