The resources made available to back up the new policy will ultimately be the key test as to whether this bill is a success or failure.
Legislation to enshrine a new system of farm payments that will pay farmers for “public goods” were laid in Parliament yesterday.
The system will replace direct payments made under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which bases payments on the amount of land they farm.
These payments are skewed towards the largest landowners, with the top 10 percent of recipients currently receiving almost 50 percent of total payments, while the bottom 20 percent receive just two percent, according to the environment department (Defra).
The new system is due to begin next year. The government has previously pledged to maintain the level of funding for farming at current levels till 2022, but has not said what will happen after that. The lack of clarity on long-term funding has been criticised by environmentalists.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP said: “This agriculture bill has been injected with warm words about protecting our environment - but its failure to commit to long-term funding and strong enforcement powers means it reads more like a wish-list than a plan of action.”
Martin Harper, conservation director at the RSPB, said that he was pleased with the overall direction of the bill. But he added: “The resources made available to back up the new policy will ultimately be the key test as to whether this bill is a success or failure.”
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.