Britain's largest membership organisation, the National Trust, has demanded a complete reform of farm subsidies after Brexit. The idea is that the basic payment would be scrapped and farmers would just be paid for ecosystem services or public goods: Reform call
I heard Dame Helen Ghosh, the director of the National Trust and one time permanent secretary at Defra, interviewed on Radio 5 this morning and she did say that subsidies would have to be phased out over a five or six year period. I would favour seven years and the use of a bond scheme I outlined in an earlier post.
She argued that farmers deserved a better return from the market. No doubt they do, but would the market respond, given retailer power and the limitations of the supermarket ombudsman? Governments in practice welcome oligopolistic price competition between retailers because it holds down food prices for families who are already struggling with tight budgets.
Her views are certainly not without merit and will receive wide support from those who want to see an agricultural policy that places greater emphasis on sustainability. Farmers who voted for Brexit may now start to realise what they have unleashed.
The NFU has responded saying that farmers take their role as custodians of the countryside seriously, but we need to recognise how vital food production is: NFU response