right000Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy
Organisation: The Wildlife Trusts
Our presence at this meeting has been requested by the Chair (DEFRA) as an alternative voice. We will be recommending our ideas/objectives that represent our views for post-Brexit agricultural policy. Agricultural reform, from the CAP to an independent UK system gives us a unique opportunity to incorporate subsidy reform utilising public monies for public goods (Helm, 2017) in pursuit of a green-Brexit.
The changes broadly mentioned in the 25-year environmental plan have been received well (Downing and Coe, 2018). However, the concept, and metrics of public goods have not been fully clarified or quantified to this point, which is creating uncertainty amongst farmers, as well as differing opinions on which public goods should take priority (DEFRA, 2018).
Many ecosystem services (ES) and public goods are related – it is widely documented that ES are fundamental for the agricultural sector to exist and flourish (WRI, n.d.), which ultimately creates dependencies between ecology and economics (Cong et al, 2014). The economic importance of wildlife & ES on farms cannot be understated. This new policy of public goods by way of a natural capital approach, will aid farmers in understanding the importance of many ES benefits, as well as reducing future risk by poor business decisions that would not normally be recognized (SBC, n.d.).
Implementing new minimum requirement for public goods: updated with a greater understanding of metrics
Create targets for improved soil health & fertilizer reduction
Securing long-term funding from government for farms and public goods
Why these Markers?
Strengthening public goods is key in enhancing the environment & ES, as well as potentially increasing agriculture productivity and ensuring long-term sustainability. We recommend a modified system where farmers must reach a minimum standard of public goods to receive any payment. This system will promote further land to be dedicated for environmental purposes, by fiscally penalizing and rewarding farmers for:
Failing to provide a new minimum standard of land for the purposes of public goods,
Successfully providing a higher than required standard of public goods,
This is a move-away from opt-in stewardship schemes and a different approach to the CAP ‘greening’ component of provider gets, which simply reduces payments if conditions are not met and does not limit them. However, due to the diverse nature of the UK’s agricultural sector, there is a clear need for a case-by-case basis for these required minimum standard conditions (Gravey et al, 2017).
This policy will help avoid the conditions of a prisoner’s dilemma problem within the agricultural sector, as farmers are required to participate for funding. Moreover, it contributes to increased wildlife enhancement via large-scale cooperation, because when an area’s land-use is environmentally enhanced it effects a wider area than originally invested in (NE, 2012; Cong et al, 2014).
This policy is also significant as its minimum requirement for subsidy provision is stringent, this is needed to establish that green-Brexit is not a greenwash. However, it is important to note that the understanding and accountability of this objective will become increasingly clear as the economic value of public goods becomes common practice (HM, 2018; Gravey et al, 2017).
We highlight that one public good, soil health/quality, is particularly important, as its decline can directly be attributed to poor agricultural practices and is a major cause of air/water pollution (DEFRA*, 2018). Soil health has also been recognised by the farming community as one of the most pressing environmental issues (DEFRA, 2018).
There has already been investment into new soil health regulations, metrics and testing across farms throughout the UK:
New water rules in April 2018 (T;T, 2018),
£200,000 investment into soil testing (HM,2018),
25-Year plan new soil frameworks/indicators (HM,2018),
Accompanying these metrics, we suggest the implementation of a set of soil quality targets at the farm-level, which would allow governmental bodies to have a better understanding of the effects of changes in agriculture practice on the health of soils and to act where required using fiscal rewards and penalties. This policy of creating targets is an effective use of the polluter pays principle, as these farmers should have to internalise the damage to public goods if they fail to meet these reduced pollution targets (Helm, 2017).
These damaging practices have a clear and measurable impact on the soil which should be utilised. This fiscal responsibility on farmers, can also act as an incentive to change to more environmentally-friendly practices, newer technologies and structural changes. These have positive effects for other areas such as soil formation, reduced chemical fertiliser input, sustainability and the actual economic output of farms (HM, 2018, p46), all of which have positive knock-on effects for the wider-environment.
It is of great importance that the government addresses key issues of long-term funding which are going to change drastically, due to the switch from the CAP to a new UK system, as we are now lacking EU support (European Commission, 2017). We, like many other environmental groups, want to see farming direct funding maintained as to not harm sustainable/environmental development (Downing and Coe, 2018).
The new bill is environmentally ambitious, but without clear targets of funding and where money is being redirected for public goods, we are concerned that these new environmental land management promises, and changes described in the 25-year environmental plan (HM, 2018) will not be met. There have been promises made to maintain this direct funding, but how this deficit from CAP is being solved has not been addressed.
The main promise of a green-Brexit is to leave the environment in a better state than at present. To achieve this, finances must be secured for the sake of public goods and wildlife/environmental enhancement – we suggest the government create a duty to this planned funding and policy change.
Economic/sustainability aspect of public goods ; ES is vital, NFU must realise that short-term losses in productivity will help them in the long-term
Farmers must be held accountable as polluters
Talk to Ed about this objective… am I targeting the government?
Farmers unions and environmental groups have broadly welcome the initial proposals and key elements of emerging policy for England which are:
The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) (direct subsidies by area farmed) for 2019 will be paid as normal with some simplification.
A transition phase of “several years” from farming subsidy to a system of public money for public goods over time whilst limiting some of the largest subsidy payments.
No lower animal welfare or environmental standards in trade deals (Downing and Coe, 2018).
Environmental groups want to see current funding for farmers maintained to support sustainable land management. (Downing and Coe, 2018).
Soil erosion is accelerating due to more intense rainfall, leading to the loss of valuable topsoil and pollution of watercourses. Heavy rainfall can also cause local pollution directly, for example when slurry stores become flooded and overflow. (EA, 2017).
Including clover/legume mixes in grass swards and using green manures are alternative methods to increase the quantities of available nitrogen and will reduce the requirement for additional nutrients from manufactured fertilisers (or slurry/manures)
Complete replacement of fertilizers is not possible, however there is need to minimize the use of chemical fertilizers to avoid their harmful effects on soil and environment.
Chemical fertilizer based modern agricultural practices are the major causes of soil, water and air pollution. Chemical fertilizers crowd out useful minerals naturally present in the top soil. The microbes like bacteria, actinomycetes, worms etc. in top soil enrich the humus and help to produce nutrients to be taken up by the plants and later by animals. However, fertilizer enriched soil is unable to support microbial life and hence there is less humus and less nutrients and the soil easily becomes poor and eroded by rain and wind. (DEFRA, 2018).
Recent research demonstrates that managed systems with these protocols exhibit higher economic value of ecosystem services. Thus, there is need to support the deployment of these protocols through various policy mechanisms for the long-term sustainability of agriculture (Sandhu et al, 2016).
Research and innovation are part of the answer. Agri-tech developments can significantly improve farm performance, in terms of both profits and the environment. Properly implemented precision farming, resource efficiency, and better livestock and crop management can achieve more effective sustainable productivity growth. An example from the Agri-tech Catalyst programme is Saturn Bioponics’ and ValeFresco’s successful trial of a vertical hydroponic growth system for Pak Choi at a polytunnel operated by ValeFresco. This has demonstrated between a three- and four-fold increase in crop yield on the same land area, with reduced input requirements (water, fertiliser and pesticides) and improved crop quality. Saturn Bioponics has received a government productivity award for its work. (HM, 2018).
Because climate change may lead to lower flows in rivers, the concentration of pollutants from agricultural run off and the activities of agriculture are therefore felt to a greater extent. Because of climate change, it is therefore more important than ever to reduce the flow of pesticides and other pollutants (ammonia for example) into the water supply (DEFRA, 2012).
Increased ecosystem service recognition
Making sure defra produce a fairer system than CAP, one which is more weighted towards ecosystem services and goods
Long-term environmental problem -; 10% of land as a minimum for subsidies and direct payments
Mark Avery – conservation director for rspb
People’s manifesto for wildlife – radical thinkers –
Set aside arable land -> research on bird populations -> precursor of environmental schemes
Agricultural land-use in the UK accounts for ~70% of the national landmass (HM, 2018), this means that targeting these areas for ES enhancement, and thereby public goods, is vital and necessary – simply because it is the agricultural landscape which dominates the UK.
Furthermore, the agricultural sector are high-polluters, both directly to the environment itself, (HM, 2018) but also indirectly by GHG emissions that exacerbate climate change, targeting these areas is crucial in safeguarding ES and protecting wildlife at larger-scale.