Farmers and landowners must continue to receive Government support for the work they do to protect and enhance the countryside once Britain leaves the European Union, the vice president of the Country Land and Business Association has said.
Mark Bridgeman said that his organisation would be lobbying for Government to introduce what he described as “Land Management Contracts” for farmers, which would provide support from the public purse to replace the subsidies they currently receive under the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme for the environmental work they do which is not covered by the market.
Mr Bridgeman said these contracts should not only compensate landowners for the measures they provide for things like flooding protection and nature habitats, but that they could be regionalised in terms of their make-up to reflect what different areas of the countryside around the UK contribute.
The CLA chief was making his remarks during a debate on how Brexit will effect British agriculture at Tennant’s Auctioneers in Leyburn.
He said: “What we are talking about is a Land Management Contract for farmers and landowners to deliver public goods. We think there will be payments and should be payments for things that the market does not pay for. That can be environmental, keeping water clean or preventing flooding.
“It needs to have a local feel to it. One of the problems with the existing scheme is that it has to suit 28 countries around the whole of Europe.
“We think not just in a British context, but we need to regionalise it even further. We need to see what works in the Fens and what works at the top of Teesdale. I don’t personally think there will be a pure base payment like there is now.”
Mr Bridgeman also said that rural firms needed assurances that they would still be able to use migrant labour from Europe if they are to be sustainable.
“If you are involved in the picking of fruit and vegetables then 90 per cent of the workforce is European migrant labour. In food production it is about 35 per cent.
“We can’t be complacent and think government is going to give us what we want as an industry, we need to push for that. Seasonal worker schemes need to be brought in.”
He also warned that a so-called “bonfire of regulations” post-Brexit was unlikely, predicting many EU laws concerning agriculture would simply be transposed into UK law.