The National Farmers Union used the recent political party conference season to set out a three-phase approach to move the UK from the EU system of farm support under the CAP to “a new, bold and ambitious” domestic agricultural policy. But the Union calls on the government to share its thinking on the transition, to give the industry confidence to plan ahead after Brexit which could be just 18 months away.
The first phase of the plan would be to ensure stability and continuity. The NFU says it envisages “an initial two-year phase where the existing CAP measures would be largely preserved, but adjusted where opportunities for minor improvements present themselves, alongside work to start testing and piloting new ideas for the new system”.
The second phase would involve review and assessment work while CAP legacy schemes continued to be in place for farmers. “Crucially, at this stage it should be possible to assess the wider political environment and trading conditions farmers will face in the future following Brexit,” says the NFU. Government would need to carry out detailed analysis during this phase of the Brexit settlement and its impact on farming, as well as assessing the results of pilots and trials introduced in earlier years.
The third and final phase would see the switch to a new domestic agricultural policy, with “the precise timing depending on the results of the government’s impact assessment and a clear understanding of the impact of policy changes on British farming”.
NFU president Meurig Raymond elaborates: “We know that forming a future domestic agricultural policy presents a huge opportunity for government to set out a framework for support that promotes profitability, productivity and progressiveness on British farms.
“But at the forefront of many farmers’ minds is the shift from an EU policy to a domestic one and what this will mean for their businesses. This is why a well thought out transition – as set out in the NFU’s three-stage process – is vital to ensuring as much certainty and stability as possible.
Mr Raymond says a favourable Brexit settlement could see the first two phases completed in four years and a new system implemented as early as 2023. But “a disruptive Brexit, that damages the prospects of British farming, would mean maintaining the stability of the current system for a much longer period”.
He concludes: “Whilst it might appear attractive to make fundamental changes to the CAP schemes on day one of Brexit, the NFU feels there is a balance to be struck between ensuring regulatory stability and effective delivery of a new policy on the one hand and the ambition for tangible change in our agricultural support regime in the short to medium term post-Brexit.
“What is clear is farming’s appetite to move to a new way of doing things that promotes greater productivity on farm, protects and enhances the environment, and guards against volatility in the sector.“