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Poor crops: Is Britain’s post-EU green agricultural subsidy struggling to get farmers’ attention?

The National Audit Office has warned that major environmental land management schemes, which will be online starting next month, are at risk of low levels of support from farmers and lack of detailed purpose.

The National Audit Authority (NAO) warns that the UK’s post-EU agricultural subsidy system risks being hampered by a lack of detailed purpose and limited involvement with farmers.

In a report released this morning, public sector inspectors still set detailed goals for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Areas (Defra), an environmental land management (ELM) scheme that will replace the EU payment system. We conclude that it has not been established. For farmers.

Unlike the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the ELM scheme takes steps to strengthen so-called “public goods,” such as strengthening flood resilience, investing in nature-based climate solutions, and improving soil quality. The purpose is to encourage farmers to take action.

Defra argues that the Future Farming and Countryside Program is a “generational opportunity to reform agriculture” and departs from the CAP-backed land subsidy system. It is also widely regarded as an important plan for the government’s Net Zero strategy, given its potential to drive the expansion of natural carbon sinks.

However, NAO today continues to describe the environmental goals associated with the scheme as “provisional” by Defra, failing to meet the “specific strategic policy goals needed to transform ELM’s vision into a viable program.” I warned that.

Gareth Davies, head of NAO, said: “Defra needs to develop a detailed plan for the implementation of the scheme in order to achieve its intended environmental goals.”

NAO’s criticism arises as the government prepares to launch the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive (SFI), the first core element of ELM’s three core schemes, by mid-2022. The program will start next month with 1,000 farmers..

In its assessment, the Audit Office noted that Defra made progress in “some key areas” of ELM development and design in 2019, despite significant headwinds associated with Brexit and Covid-19. I’m pointing out.

However, the ministry’s environmental ambitions could also be undermined by farmers’ lack of interest in the scheme, with 2,178 farmers out of a total of 44,000 eligible landowners becoming SFI pilots. Point out that you have signed up to participate.

The relatively low level of interest far fell short of Defra’s expectations, Watchdog warned, saying the ministry expected to receive 5,000 to 10,000 expressions of interest in its pilot program.

According to NAO, continued refraining from farmers from participating in this plan could have a significant impact on the government’s environmental agenda. “Continuous low level of interest [from farmers] It can threaten Defra’s environmental ambitions. “

The report informs farmers that trusting Defra’s reforms is due to poor management of past agricultural subsidies and actions paid by SFI pilots and SFI schemes scheduled to begin in 2022. It claims to be hampered by the recent delays in things. The department warns that it has not yet regained sufficient trust from farmers with confidence in achieving a high level of participation in ELM, which will be fully launched in 2024, and will not successfully launch the SFI program next year. Warned that it would exacerbate this problem.

β€œThe launch of the SFI2022 is the first time that tens of thousands of farmers have experienced the ELM scheme in real life,” said NAO. “Failed to launch SFI2022 will further damage Defra’s reputation and reduce long-term participation in ELM.”

Elsewhere, the report says, “Delivery risk,” because the government’s decision to change the original ELM program in late 2020 and move some of the SFIs to market next year needs to be urgently designed. Is added.

Administrator of the Environment George Eustice said the government would publish a complete response to NAO’s report addressing areas of “misunderstanding.”

“NAO recognizes that we are making good progress, but will address some areas of misunderstanding in its full response to the report,” he said.

“Our future agricultural policy will move away from the arbitrary land subsidies and top-down bureaucracy that symbolize the EU era,” Eustice said. “We give incentives to sustainable agricultural practices and reward farmers for the environmental assets of their land.”

However, NAO’s assessment is widely reflected. Long-standing concerns Between the environment and the agricultural group. While green activists have widely welcomed plans to reform subsidies to reward farmers by providing public goods, the SFI scheme provides farmers with minimal environmental improvements. He also warned of the risk of providing payments and the lack of clarity about how the ELM scheme would work accurately. Work runs the risk of undermining its considerable potential.

Jim Elloitt, senior policy adviser to the Green Alliance, said it was important for the government to codify the clear purpose of the post-Brexit subsidy system for farmers.

“The new ELM schemes guarantee that UK farmers will receive billions of pounds of public funding, but as NAO points out, the environmental sector has set these schemes without a clear purpose. I’m designing, “he said. “It is not surprising that agriculture and land use are farthest from getting on track to reach our climate goals as other sectors progress. Citizens say their money sequesters carbon and It is worth knowing that it is being used wisely to improve habitat and help restore wildlife. “

The ELM scheme is one of the green jewels of the UK’s Net Zero strategy and could prove to be one of the obvious benefits of the government’s controversial Brexit program. There is a clear opportunity to redefine agricultural best practices, drive carbon sink expansion and reverse the UK’s continued decline in biodiversity. But in the months to come, it’s clear that governments need to figure out how the scheme actually works and exactly what it’s trying to achieve. .. Poor crops: Is Britain’s post-EU green agricultural subsidy struggling to get farmers’ attention?

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