The Health and Harmony Consultation closed on 8 May 2018. Over forty thousand responses were received from a wide range of people including farmers, environmental and food/farming related organisations and the general public. All responses have been analysed and are being used to inform our policies on future farm support.
The Government published its policy response on 14 September setting out a future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit, together with reports on its analysis of the impacts of removing direct payments and economic rationales for future government intervention.
The Government’s assessment was to adopt a gradual transition from the current approach to the new, avoiding a cliff-edge for farm businesses - noting the negative experiences in New Zealand when rapid changes were adopted. Our proposals therefore outline a 7 year transition period.
We are applying reductions to Direct Payments in a fair way, with higher reductions initially applied to amounts in higher payment bands. All farmers will see some reductions from the start of the transition. We plan to begin making these reductions in 2021, with the final year for Direct Payments being 2027. We believe that this approach balances the views of those who feel recipients of the highest payments should initially face higher reductions, with the strong calls for the reductions to be shared amongst all farmers from the start of the transition and in a way that prepares the industry for change. The transition period also needs to be long enough to give farmers sufficient time to adapt and prepare for the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which starts in 2024.
The ELM National Pilot, starting in late 2021, will assess the end to end operability and deliverability before the scheme is rolled out in 2024. This will allow us to identify and refine any issues or barriers that occur in practice. We are working closely with a range of agricultural and environmental stakeholders to collaboratively design the new scheme, and to test and trial new approaches and investigate innovative mechanisms for the delivery of environmental outcomes.
Defra recognises the challenges around the uncertainty and outcome of the timing of leaving the EU. It is planning for every contingency to ensure a smooth departure from the EU, including detailed ’no deal’ plans.