The Future of the UK Countryside, Post Brexit: A Structured Dialogue with Pete Smith

1)      In your opinion what are the biggest risks and opportunities for farming and the environment upon leaving the EU?

Risks: Deregulation could lead to a “race to the bottom” with respect to environmental standards.

Opportunities: Possibility to replace CAP with more holistic land management incentives – could include e.g. forest, peatlands and wetlands

2)      What do you see as the basis for future public payments for farmers and land managers? What, in your opinion, should public funding aim to deliver?

Environmental benefits and ecosystem services.

3)      How should public support for farming be offered? E.g. Direct payments, Agri-environment payment, or other forms of financial (grants or loans)/non-financial support (advice, knowledge-exchange).

Agri-environment payment and improved advice, knowledge-exchange.

4)      Do you see any potential for private financing to facilitate/replace public payments?

Possibly – but cannot see who will pay – unless it is via e.g. carbon market payments, or payments for ecosystem services.

5)      What direction do you believe future trade policies need to take, and how might this affect future agri-environment policy?

The UK has excellent bioclimatic conditions to produce high outputs with low inputs. The UK should aim to trade globally with a high-quality produce with world-leading environmental and welfare standards – i.e. UK farming should go for “clean green” branding and practice with a premium rather than a “low-regulation but cheap” model on production.

6)      What impacts might the changes you envisage have on farmers and land managers?
It depends on what trade deals UK strikes with EU and others. I suspect there will be a period of turmoil and uncertainty that will damage UK farm businesses unless the UK Governement makes policy to stabilise markets.
6a) What might the wider impacts be on the countryside/rural communities?
If farm businesses are less vialble, there will be knock on effects for the whole rural sector so they must be protected in some way.
6b) How might you propose to mitigate the impacts? Do you think any additional policy measures will be necessary and what might these be?

Yes – replaced subsidies in the short term and policies to intervene in the market until trade deals are struck and trade stabilises.

7)      What impacts might the changes you envisage have on the environment (farmland biodiversity; wider biodiversity; soil health; water quality etc.)

It depends on how UK Government implements BREXIT. If UK goes for high-quality produce with world-leading environmental and welfare standards – i.e. UK farming should go for “clean green” branding and practice with a premium, the environment could benefit. If the UK goes for a “low-regulation but cheap” model on production, it will lead to the UK again becoming the “dirty” partner in Europe.

8)      How might your proposals secure the government’s commitment to “leave the environment in a better state than we found it”?

We need to follow the high-quality produce with world-leading environmental and welfare standards – anything else will not deliver this commitment.

9)      What impacts might the changes you envisage have on visitor/tourists’ perceptions of the countryside?

If UK follows high-quality produce with world-leading environmental and welfare standards – i.e. UK farming should go for “clean green” branding and practice with a premium, the environment will benefit, and the countryside / landscape will be more attractive to tourists.

10)   What would be your 25 year vision for the future of farming, the environment and the countryside in the UK?

High-quality produce with world-leading environmental and welfare standards – i.e. UK farming should go for “clean green” branding and practice with a premium paid for UK produce.

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