LABOUR has hinted that it could back a major overhaul of farm subsidies on the back of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
A document released at the party’s conference argues there are “serious problems” with payments under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
It argues that “wealthy landowners who do not require subsidies receive the biggest payments, whereas farmers on the lowest incomes receive no additional support”.
The document looking at the potential impact of Brexit criticises the Government for failing to give farmers more clarity of what will happen to subsidies over the long term.
It says that “as a minimum, we will demand that any replacement system of direct payments is reformed so that they do not just relate to the size of farms, as under the CAP system, but also to factors such as the location and type of farm, its productivity and its profitability, in order to generate the right balances to ensure that farming is viable, and that those farms whose livelihoods will be most at risk when we leave the EU receive the support they need”.
Labour also plans to “argue that any new domestic arrangements should reform the criteria by which payments are currently tied to environmental sustainability, crop diversification, rural protection and animal welfare to make them more tailor-made for the conditions of UK farms”.
Speaking at the conference, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour would “stand up” for “small farm subsidies” as decisions are taken on life after Brexit.
Earlier this year, Chancellor Philip Hammond promised farmers would continue to receive payments equivalent to those made under “pillar one” of the CAP until 2020.
Dorothy Fairburn, North regional director for the Country Land and Business Association, said: “It’s good to see political discussions taking place about the future of farming support.
“Although we know current payments will continue until the end of 2020 what happens after is as yet unknown.
“Only a profitable, resilient farming sector can realistically invest time and resource in environmental management.
She added: “Government and land managers must work together to establish a new, world-leading UK food, farming and environmental policy which creates better outcomes than the current EU CAP for the UK economy and environment.”