A number of UK farm and wildlife organisations are pressing Defra secretary Michael Gove not to ignore the short-term needs of current countryside stewardship schemes in his longer-term vision for new environmental protection arrangements once the UK has left the EU.

There is rising concern that farmers and land managers who sign up to agri-environment schemes before the UK leaves the EU could be penalised post-Brexit.

A joint letter from the CLA, NFU, TFA, CAAV, FWAG, GWCT, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and the National Trust have calls for a commitment to ensure those in England with a Countryside Stewardship agreement are not at a disadvantage when the Government launches its promised “simpler and more effective” system of environmental land management payments after the EU exit.

The letter points out the danger of farmers and land managers not wanting to limit their ability to access improved schemes in the future by committing to five-year agreements under the current Countryside Stewardship scheme.  The organisations seek a guarantee from Mr Gove to provide confidence for their members to continue to engage in schemes which deliver positive environmental results.

“Some potential applicants for Countryside Stewardship are already questioning whether they should apply now or hold off until a better scheme is available,” states CLA president Tim “This reduces the level of environmental management and increases the chance of less funding being made available by Defra in the European Rural Development Fund, at just the time that we should be encouraging greater uptake.

“We urge the Secretary of State to give his guarantee that he will not take this risk by ensuring that farmers and land managers are not disadvantaged by future policy or during any transitional period once the UK leaves the EU in 2019.”

NFU President Meurig Raymond adds: “Farmers are voluntarily committing to agri-environment contracts with Government now but they must not find themselves disadvantaged as Brexit bites. So it’s vital that Government offers them the necessary confidence to enter into an agreement.”