UK to replace agricultural 'greening' programme post-Brexit

The UK left the EU in January of this year, and the transition period - which temporarily binds the UK to current EU laws during negotiations on the future relationship - is set to end in January 2021. As the UK will no longer be bound by EU regulations, government has announced an intention to move away from EU 'greening' requirements and towards a new Environmental Land Management scheme.

The European Commission’s greening requirements for Direct Payments have required farmers to carry out specified practices in order to qualify for additional payments. These requirements have created a significant amount of controversy during their lifespan, as was documented when the European Court of Auditors 2017 Special Report on greening found that they had little effect on greening. Much of these requirements and payments are regarded to have been crafted to protect farming industries in key western EU nations from outside competition.

Under government plans to simplify the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), farmers will have will no longer have to comply with the so called greening requirements with effect from the 2021 scheme year. These changes will not affect the overall payment received by each farmer as the money will instead be added to farmers’ entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme.

The agricultural transition period will last for seven years and see Direct Payments to farmers in England phased out and replaced with a new system that rewards farmers for delivering public goods, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, and creating or restoring habitats for wildlife. The new Environmental Land Management scheme, expected to be rolled out in late 2024, is designed to foster a collaborative approach between farmers and authorities.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said:

The so-called greening requirements have added little to our environmental efforts. We believe that farmers will benefit from this reduced bureaucratic burden next year as we begin the move towards our new Environmental Land Management scheme which will deliver greater benefits for the environment.

We will be setting out more detail in the autumn on how we will ensure a smooth transition for our farmers, as they move towards our new, fairer agricultural system, which will reward them for the hard work that they do to protect our environment.

The planned phasing out of Direct Payments will take place gradually to give farmers the time to adapt to the changes. In the majority of cases, the government says that reductions in these payments will be offset by alternative support being made available to help farmers improve their productivity and aid their transition into the new Environmental Land Management scheme.

Farmers will also continue to be able to apply to Countryside Stewardship schemes until the future scheme is rolled out. Government will make details on plans for the agricultural transition period available in Autumn 2020.