Government’s rewilding scheme will lead to ‘big increase’ in food prices

A House of Commons committee has warned Britons could face a “significant increase” in food prices and shortages due to an overhaul of payments to farmers.

The government’s plans to reward farmers for protecting the environment are based on “blind optimism” and could make the country completely dependent on imports.

The National Agricultural Confederation has growing concerns about Britain’s food security, warning that changing farmland use would harm the UK’s self-sufficiency and lead to increased imports.

It comes as it was revealed that Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are planning to discuss an impending energy crisis due to price ceiling hikes as early as next week.

The new farming system includes a program to support local nature on farms and “landscape restoration” funding for large-scale projects, which could include rebuilding, as well as payments to farmers for farming more sustainably.

The government’s plans to reward farmers for protecting the environment are based on “blind optimism” and could make the country completely dependent on imports. stock image

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has not determined how productivity increases or environmental benefits will be achieved through the scheme — or how the huge impact of the current direct cut will offset subsidies by more than half by 2024/25.

Her report said Defra “confesses her confidence in the scheme that appears to be blind optimism without details of what she planned.”

Representatives said a lack of information from Defra early enough to allow farmers to plan was causing concern in the sector – exacerbated by the historic lack of confidence caused by past failures to manage farm payment plans.

It raised concerns that Defra did not explain how changes in land use would not lead to more food being imported, with the environmental impacts of production being “exported” to countries with lower standards.

She said Devra had not set strong baselines or clear targets to allow her to gauge the success of the scheme and whether the £2.4 billion a year on agricultural schemes provided value for money.

There are concerns that plans focus too much on freeing up land for rebuilding rather than supporting British food production

PAC said Defra’s involvement in the agriculture sector is improving “but there is still a long way to go”.

The MPs urged the government to explain how it thinks its agricultural programs will affect food production and farm productivity, review its communications strategy, and determine how it will motivate young farmers to come and stay in the sector.

They also warned Defra that it needs to identify additional support needed to help farmers during the transition period, including where farmers will face significant commercial challenges in the short term.

Removing direct payments, which focus on acreage of owned land rather than environmental schemes, could have cut average farm net profit in England by 53% over the past three years to £22,800.

Without direct payments, more than a third of farms would have incurred a loss and therefore would not be sustainable without changes such as rent reductions, increased productivity or income from new schemes, the report said.

PAC Vice President Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown said: ‘We’ve known we’ve been replacing the CPOA since 2016 and still don’t see clear plans, goals or communications with those at the sharp end – farmers – in this drastic multi-billion dollar reform. of sterling pounds. About the way land is used and, most importantly, food production in this country.

PAC Vice President Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown (pictured) said: 'We've known we've been replacing the COP since 2016 and still don't see clear plans, goals or communications with those on the sharp end - the farmers'

PAC Vice President Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown (pictured) said: ‘We’ve known we’ve been replacing the COP since 2016 and still don’t see clear plans, goals or communications with those on the sharp end – the farmers’

Farmers, especially the next generation of farmers on whom we will depend to achieve our shared environmental and productivity goals, have been left in the dark and it is simply wrong that Defra’s failures in business planning undermine themselves with the critical certainty of a critically important national sector.

Sir Jeffrey added: “The recent energy price crisis should be a useful warning of the potential risks to food availability and affordability if the UK becomes more dependent on food imports.”

Environment Minister George Eustice said: “We disagree with many of the points raised by the committee that do not take into account recent developments.

Farm incomes have improved significantly since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016 and there would be no better time to improve the way we reward farmers.

In December, I elaborated extensively on the sustainable agriculture incentive including full reimbursement rates and published an in-depth analysis of food security and agricultural production in the UK.

“Last week, we shared more details about local and landscape restoration schemes and announced a significant increase in payment rates for those farmers participating in existing agro-environment schemes.”

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