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At the Oxford Farming Conference held on the 4th January 2018, Michael Gove announced that the Government would guarantee subsidy payments at the current EU level until the election takes place in 2022.
Mr Gove indicated that the current payment scheme could remain in place until 2024, but that consultation would be held to finalise any Government decisions on the matter.
The future of how subsidies will be paid have not yet been decided but it seems the Government is inclined to reduce larger subsidy payments made, with a suggestion of either a maximum payment being introduced or a sliding scale of reductions. Mr Gove stated that “paying landowners for the amount of agricultural land they have is unjust, inefficient and drives perverse outcomes. It gives the most from the public purse to those who have the most private wealth.”
It is proposed that there will be a move away from “pillar 1” payments (i.e. payments based solely on the number of eligible hectares), and a focus on payments for “pillar 2” (also known as “greening”) activities, so that subsidies are paid as a reward for creating more environmentally friendly landscapes. Mr Gove commented payments would be made for “planting woodland, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, contributing to improved water quality and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states”.
Mr Gove’s confirmation that subsidies will continue to be paid until at least 2022 will be welcome news for many farmers and landowners, however, the main concern for the industry post-Brexit remains to be what trade deals the Government will put in place to ensure that the future of farming is secure in the UK.