Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has confirmed that more money than ever before from the country’s European agriculture budget will be spent on the environment.
The amount of funding to be transferred from farmers’ direct payments to the country’s budget for improving the environment will increase by three per cent initially, before rising by another three per cent in 2016 – instead of a flat six per cent rise straight away.
The second increase is subject to a review into the demand for environmental schemes and the competitiveness of English agriculture.
Mr Paterson said: “England’s £15bn Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must deliver real benefits to farming, rural businesses, the countryside and the taxpayer.
“Today’s decision will see £3.5bn invested in the environment and rural development schemes over the next seven years.
“This is a significant change in the way we allocate CAP money and even with a smaller overall CAP budget, the Government will be spending a bigger share of the budget on the environment than before.”
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it was a “sensible and pragmatic” decision.
Deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “I am delighted that Owen Paterson has decided to keep the rate of modulation below the maximum for the next four years along with a Government review to be launched in 2016 to consider the transfer rate from payments in 2018.
“I appreciate this was not any easy decision for the Secretary of State to make but we are pleased that he has listened to our arguments.”
Mike Clarke, the RSPB’s chief executive, said NFU pressure had led to a watered down deal which falls short of what conservationists wanted and what nature needs, but he pledged the charity will continue working with progressive farmers to help protect the farmed environment and prevent the ongoing decline of many threatened species.
Henry Robinson, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), joined the NFU in welcoming the Environment Secretary’s decision: “He has struck a reasonable balance between supporting the environment and rural development and ensuring that farmers in England get a fair deal.”