Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Trouble brewing in the British countryside

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois

In further Brexit fallout, the UK's countryside organisations are at loggerheads over farm payments.

British conservation body, the National Trust, called for an end to EU-style farm subsidies once the UK leaves the bloc.

The Trust said that species and wildlife have been damaged over the last half-century "due to the industrialised farming methods incentivised by successive funding regimes", including under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It said any new subsidy payments should be linked to the preservation of "public goods" such as habitats and wildlife rather than land ownership and food production.

However, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) hit back at the Trust, saying farmers "take their responsibilities as custodians of the countryside seriously", and had restored thousands of kilometres of hedgerows and more than doubled the number of nectar and pollen-rich areas.

"We should not be contemplating doing anything which will undermine British farming's competitiveness or its ability to produce food," said NFU president Meurig Raymond. "In our view, food security should be considered to be a legitimate political goal and public good."

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan has assured the 175,000 UK farmers that currently benefit from CAP payments that they will continue to receive EU money until Britain officially leaves the bloc - which will take at least two years from when a formal exit request is made.

In a speech to UK farmers in July, he said any post-Brexit deal should preserve "the central position of farmers in the rural life and economy" of the UK.

Also Read

Following the National Trust fracas, an investigation by climate activists Greenpeace found that prominent Brexit campaigners received over €4.5m in EU farm subsidies in 2015.

Beneficiaries include Lord Gardiner, the UK's new Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, and George Eustice, the new Minister of State for Agriculture, Greenpeace said.

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