BREXIT will bring a new ‘Agricultural Revolution’ in the U.K.
New policies are coming soon as U.K. breaks from EU subsidies.
BREXIT Will Bring A New ‘Agricultural Revolution’ In the U.K.
At the end of the month the United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union. As a result, the U.K. will cut off bonding with Europe’s farm subsidy policies. Many researchers believe that it is a good thing. The U.K. government has proposed a £3 billion a year in agricultural sector this week. It is a radical change for sure. The spending aims at benefitting the people, ecosystems and climate. Dieter Helm works at the University of Oxford as an economist. He says, “It’s dramatic and utterly critical. This is an agricultural revolution.”
As it is introduced to Parliament under the bill this week, we expect that it will be established as a law within a few months. The farmers will get subsidies but different from the earlier EU system. Previously, they got subsidies for cultivating lands, but they will also get subsidies for delivering “public goods” after the law enacts. The process includes low carbon production from soil or trees while farming, introduction of more pollinator-friendly flowers, and improvement in public access to the countryside. To make the transition process easier, the government has phased direct subsidies and it will continue for seven years starting from 2021.
It will also focus on some pilot projects by ensuring payments for environmental services. As an animal ecologist at the University of Cambridge, Lynn Dicks studies wild pollinator conservation. He says, “It certainly could have really positive benefits for the environment.”
The World War II came with massive destruction and starvation. At that time, European tariffs came forward to protect the farmers so that they can survive in the competition and increase their yields. Ian Bateman works at the University of Exeter as an environmental economist. He says, “It was just about production, it didn’t matter what you did to the environment.” Many lands were plowed and hedgerows were ripped up resulting in erosion. Air and water pollution occurred because of excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers. The pollution affected many habitats and it disturbed the pollinators and other wildlife. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by the EU is a huge cost and at the same time more than just environmental. From the EU budget, subsidies consumed 80% during the 1990s. Still today, the €59 billion CAP represents about 40% of EU public spending.
After completing Brexit, the United Kingdom is now on a new journey. For now, the new bill will generally address England only. Other nations of the U.K. will determine new agriculture policies that fit them. Helm believes that the revolution will be fruitful if all the U.K. nations move together in agriculture improvement.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) formed a body to oversee under the new scheme. In this, there will be no change in total payments. But this new scheme emphasizes some farmers than the others. For example, beef and sheep farms are more dependent on subsidies than dairy and wheat farms. Because these farms can not be possible in hard-scrabble places like in Scotland without these subsidies.
Helm sees the subsidies as a lifeline as the new scheme pays for sequestering carbon with tree plantations or restored peatlands. As the grants will restore heritage buildings and increase landscape beauty, it will both attract tourists and sustain farms. Proper payments will allow the farmers to use more environmentally friendly techniques to stop climate change and environmental pollution. Payments for manure will encourage the farmers to use advanced fertilizers reducing air pollution and chemical fertilizer usage.
At present, nearly one-third of existing U.K. farm subsidies is spent to many activities which are environmentally friendly. For example, it takes care of hedgerows and other habitats. The new scheme aims at expanding those efforts more. In future, DEFRA plans to organize auctions. There, the farmers and land managers will make bid to win government contracts related to environmental services. We have seen reverse auction by many water companies. By this, they selected farmers who use use less fertilizer and different pesticides and thus lowered water treatment costs. “The impact has been amazing,” Bateman says.
The policy also needs some socio-economic models to study the impact. David Harvey, an agricultural economist at Newcastle University believes that the policy will bring about changes on farms and rural communities. Many other things still remains in our mind. Mark Sutton works in the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology as a nitrogen expert. He says, “You’re left with more questions than answers.”
Alan Matthews says that other countries will observe this new scheme closely. He is an agricultural economist at Trinity College Dublin. As a part of his duty, he studies European agricultural policy. He says, “If it’s been successful, that will be a very powerful argument for the Europeans to follow.”