Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

NationalTrust Calls for Farmers' Subsidy Reform; Rural and Farming in Association with Call: 0191 232 8345 Visit: Www.hay-Kilner.Co.UK Follow: FARMING

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

NationalTrust Calls for Farmers' Subsidy Reform; Rural and Farming in Association with Call: 0191 232 8345 Visit: Www.hay-Kilner.Co.UK Follow: FARMING

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT GIBSON robert.gibson@ncjmedia.co.uk

FARMERS should only be paid public subsidies for managing the countryside in a wildlifefriendly way after Brexit, the National Trust has urged.

The current European Union subsidy system which pays farmers and landowners around PS3 billion a year is "broken" and the vote to leave Europe provides an opportunity to rethink it, the Trust's director general Dame Helen Ghosh said.

Decades of post-war intensification backed by subsidies have produced a "double whammy" of harming wildlife, with 60% of the UK's studied species in decline, and damaging the services such as healthy soils which help food production.

Leave campaigners have promised subsidies will continue in the short term after Brexit.

But over the longer term the National Trust, which directly receives PS11 million a year in subsidies in addition to the payments claimed by its tenant farmers, wants to see reform to the system so that public money only pays for public goods.

In a speech at the BBC Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, Dame Helen set out proposals to put protecting nature and natural resources at the heart of a new agricultural system.

She said taxpayer money should go towards supporting things that the public values and needs - but the market will not pay for - such as wildflowers, bees and farmland birds, water meadows and winding rivers that prevent flooding in towns downstream.

The market should also pay a fair return for food production and farmers should receive rewards from utilities or the tourism industry for managing the land to help produce clean water or a great holiday experience, she argued.

Only PS600m of the PS3.1bn farmers receive benefits wildlife, the environment and heritage, with the rest paid as "basic payments" on the basis of the amount of land owned.

The National Trust receives PS8m in basic payments and PS3m for wildlifefriendly schemes, but says that it uses all the money to support conservation.

In her speech, the organisation's chief called for all subsidy payments to be dependent on meeting higher standards for looking after wildlife, soil and water. …

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