Dan Powell, organic land manager and co-founder of LandBase writes…
During the last 12 months, there have been so much rhetoric both about what Brexit will mean for the UK and, now that the decision has been made, what we are actually going to do about it.
Being a farmer in the EU has meant for many, eligibility for considerable amount of subsidies, that have been welcome in hard times and allowed investment when farming was in the black. These subsidies have had wider influences too. Land prices and rents have continued to rise making farming a very difficult sector to enter for the newcomer and food prices have mostly been kept down although most farm businesses would admit that overall, they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the economy. This is most evident on smaller mixed holdings (less hectares less payment!) and in the hills where farmers are limited in what they can produce and it is expensive to reach the markets they supply.
If and when Brexit actually passes, will it make a huge difference to looking after the land or will we just continue as before?
At the moment a land manager in England, who farms more than 5ha, and holds entitlements, can claim from the EU around £200/ha give or take a few penalties and credits in return for entering into land stewardship and complying with long list of environmental and varying management conditions.
There have been a number of reviews to this system over the years and successive governments have always argued that the UK should operate a free market system and that farming should stand on its own economic merit. The farming unions and other lobbyists have always countered this and we have retained the system to the present day despite general opposition.
The big question is, once we leave the EU, will the UK government retain a similar system of support for agriculture?
A system that is considered outdated and does not address some serious issues that our food production sector is facing. The biggest of these in our opinion, is an ageing and shrinking land work-force. Or will the government decide to revise its support to UK agriculture to encourage new blood and innovation which are the cornerstones of any thriving sector.
We know which way we want the tide to turn!!
Land Workers Alliance. Brexit and new entrants policy paper
Making Food Sovereignty a reality: post-Brexit Agriculture Policy
House of Lords EU Committee 20th Report Session 2016 – 17. Brexit Agriculture
Basic Payment Scheme 2017