Defra Secretary Michael Gove has promised a "new deal" for rural communities as he set out his vision for a "Green Brexit".
Addressing conference, the Leave campaigner pledged to use the opportunity presented by Britain’s exit from the EU to “revive” the countryside and support rural innovation.
He also set out plans to deliver a “cleaner, greener, stronger” Britain – playing down concerns that Brexit will lead to a bonfire of environmental regulations.
Headline announcements included a consultation on a new bottle deposit scheme aimed at tackling the growing problem of plastic pollution.
“We have the best farmers in the world, producing the best food in the world, but inside the EU they are held back by bureaucracy,” Mr Gove told delegates.
“The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has been a failure – environmentally damaging and socially unjust... [channeling] hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the already wealthy, simply because of the amount of land they have.
“Outside the CAP we can stop subsidising the rich on the basis of how much land they own and instead spend money on enhancing the environment, supporting innovation, improving productivity... and reviving rural communities.
“Our rural communities need a new deal. Outside the EU we can do so much better.”
Opening his speech, he began with an attack on politicians who “tell us... that we should exit from Brexit”. “I do have a problem when those politicians return to the fray with a message that... the public have got it wrong,” he said.
He argued it was “time to stand up” for the decision to leave the EU, telling conference that it presents a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for ministers to take control of environmental policy. “[It] gives us the chance to secure a special prize – a Green Brexit,” he said.
Top of the environmental agenda were plans for a consultation into a “reward and return” scheme for drinks containers. This could see shoppers rewarded with a small cash deposit for every bottle or can they recycle.
He also used his speech to issue fresh criticism of Sheffield council over its decision to fell 6,000 trees, accusing the local authority of “engage[ing] in wanton ecological vandalism”.