The government is almost at a stand still as Brexit looms. It is all encompassing and saps the time and energy of nearly all government departments. As part of this DEFRA, under the guidance of Mr Gove, is planning to remove direct payments to farmers saying that they encourage inefficient farming practises. I can see some sense in arguing against direct payments and do think there could be a better way.
However, my worry is that the government is talking about removing direct payments before working out what will replace them. This will surely lead to financial chaos and job losses within the countryside. No business can withstand this level of uncertainty.
There seems to be a lack of government talk about the necessity for farmers to be profitable. DEFRA focus is on the environment and not farmers making a living, but surely farmers can only be environmentally friendly if they are making a profit. Farmers with no money won’t be planting trees, laying hedges or sowing nectar and pollen rich flower mixes into their fields. Farming needs to be profitable first and foremost as otherwise farmers will cease to trade. This will lead directly to job losses and economic hardship for many businesses associated with farming.
Whilst coming up with a new plan the government is talking about capping larger direct payments or implementing a policy of reducing large payments by a higher percentage than small payments. I think that this will have huge unintended negative consequences for the rural economy. Large farming businesses will downsize which will reduce investment in farming and cause job losses. Also large farms are often the most innovative and environmentally friendly so punishing them will harm future farming in the UK. Moreover, the government needs to work out what system will replace direct payments BEFORE removing them.
Finally, if UK farmers are to compete on an international stage then they must receive financial support from the government as most other farmers around the world get this support. We cannot compete on cost with foreign farmers who get government support if we do not.
I think it is also important that we all express our views to the government by looking at the consultation below. Just click on the link and answer the questions. It is pretty easy.
Please tell the government what you think about this!