Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. I am pleased that the Government are committed to matching the current budget available to farmers in every year of this Parliament, providing certainty and stability. By leaving the EU, we leave the bureaucratic ties of the Common Agricultural Policy, and the UK Government will once again have control over its agriculture policies.
As the Minister responsible for agriculture, I have had a key role in developing the new Agriculture Bill – ensuring that we maximise the benefit of leaving the Common Agricultural Policy, and deliver not only for British farmers, but for the environment too.
The premise behind the Bill that I have put together with colleagues in Defra, is that we should reward farmers generously for the things they do for the environment and other public goods. The current subsidy system has become a bureaucratic quagmire for farmers and is difficult to administer for government. There are far too many rules and mapping requirements so that we measure every gateway, bush or hedge in the land.
The area-based subsidy system means that the vast majority of the money goes to the largest and wealthiest landowners in the country while smaller farmers get the crumbs from the table, so as a system of income support it is upside down. Instead, we want a system that rewards farmers to farm their land in a way that is good for the health of their soils, good for the quality of the water courses flowing through their land, good for farmland birds and pollinators and good for enhanced animal welfare outcomes.