The Environment Secretary Micheal Gove has outlined his post Brexit vision of farming that includes a futuristic vision of fit bit cows, drones and a new streamlined support process for farmers that will be introduced in the New Year. It aims to see less paperwork and a simpler application process for funding.
Speaking at the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA) annual Rural Business Conference in Westminster yesterday, Michael Gove explained how his department (DEFRA) will make practical changes to existing farm support systems, streamlining the process to free up farmers time. The Secretary of State also said that further steps would be taken to ensure that farmers have a better support system after the UK leaves the EU.
The Environment Secretary said in his speech
“As we prepare to leave the European Union we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to refashion how the state supports farming, what we pay landowners and what we want from the land.
Government I believe has a vital role to play. It’s our role to champion food production, it’s our role to help you invest in new technology and it’s our role to pay you if you enhance the environment.”
Mr Gove also envisaged a futuristic vision of farming, with ‘fit-bit cows’ and drones rather than farm hands.
“From the fit-bit for cows that tracks their health and diet, to the ‘hands-free hectare’ technology, these latest advances will shape farming in the future and also demand of the next generation of farmers a familiarity with robotics and data analytics alongside an understanding of animal husbandry and soil health.
There is no reason why Britain cannot be the world leader in drone technology, robotics, laser treatment of weeds and pests, the deployment of big data, and also responsible genomics. All of these have the capacity to improve productivity and enable environmental enhancement. And I hope to say more in coming days about how we will advance these technologies”
The environment secretary then slammed the current model of funding from Europe and blamed it for the decline in natural habitats across the country.
“We all know that the current system of support for farmers and landowners shaped by the Common Agricultural Policy is inefficient, ineffective, inequitable and environmentally harmful.
The environmental damage generated under the CAP has been striking. EU-inspired systems of agricultural production have damaged our soil.
The damage is more than just towards soil. Since we joined the EU the number of farmland birds has declined by 54% while the populations of priority species overall have declined by 33%. And also, in recent years, intensive agricultural production systems of the kind driven by the CAP have reduced the numbers of pollinators. With a 49% decline in some specific bee populations, scarcely mitigated by a 29% increase in others”
He said that farmers don’t take up schemes to help the environment because of the complicated application process.
As a first step, the Environment Secretary announced simplifications to the Countryside Stewardship scheme through the creation of four new streamlined offers which will launch in January next year. These new offers will have a much simpler application process – half as much paperwork as before – so it will be easier for farmers and land managers to apply and deliver environmental benefits on their land. Further details on this will be shared later this week.
Speaking after the conference, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
“Today I have set out plans to improve our current schemes, starting with simplifying support for farmers to protect and enhance our landscapes and countryside.
“But these measures are just the beginning – the first steps towards a simplified system of support. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working closely with our farmers to make sure we listen to what they want as we design a new approach and realise our vision for the future of UK food and farming outside the EU.”
The Countryside Stewardship scheme provides financial incentives for farmers and land managers to look after the environment, including conserving and restoring wildlife habitats, flood risk management, woodland creation, reducing water pollution and encouraging educational access.
Scott Mann Conservative MP for North Cornwall reacted to Micheal Gove’s speech and reflected on what it means for Cornwall
“I’m very pleased to hear Michael Gove laying out the first step of his post-Brexit vision for agriculture by making support for farmers simpler, quicker, fairer and more effective.
“Countryside Stewardship is a great scheme which promotes better land management and ensures that our environment is better protected. Unfortunately, Britain’s farmers are shrouded in EU red tape, but after Brexit, I want to see a domestic agricultural policy which better supports our farmers through a faster and more effective subsidy system, which promotes British food and animal husbandry, and one which strengthens our environmental protections and high animal welfare standards.
“The Government will be bringing an Agricultural Bill into Parliament before Brexit, and I very much looking forward to hearing more about how our farmers will be better supported after we leave the EU.”