Power to provide for phasing out direct payments and delinked payments

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 1st November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:30 pm, 1st November 2018

This debate links to a discussion we had earlier about setting a clear direction during the transition period. I understand that the purpose behind the amendment is to try to tease out a bit more what we have in mind when it comes to the de-linking of payments.

We believe that many farmers—sometimes they are in upland areas, sometimes they are on tenancies; often they are in their 70s, sometimes they are even older—who probably should face the decision to retire should have support in doing so, but it is not always easy for them. Sometimes they will have some residual debt or an overdraft and always be hoping that next year might be the good year that will put them in a better position.

If we want to have a vibrant, profitable farming industry in the future, we think it is right to support new entrants and put in place the right schemes that will help some farmers retire with dignity. We will de-link the payment from the need to farm the land and for it to be connected to the land. There is provision in a separate part of the Bill for us to bundle up several years of payments into one lump sum. Through those measures, that 70-something farmer who probably should retire, or would retire if he felt he was financially able to, may take a lump sum as a voluntary exit package to sort out some of his liabilities, pay off his creditors and take that decision to retire with dignity. In doing that, we will create an opportunity for new entrants who are coming in while, equally, helping to safeguard good retirements for those farmers for whom it is right to step back. That is one of the thoughts behind de-linking.

Also, in the final stages of the transition period it might be the right thing to de-link everyone’s payments from needing to be linked to the land. Through that, people can have complete freedom over what they do with that money, whether they invest it in new equipment, choose to retire or put it into some crisis reserve to give them a buffer. We want to free them up to do that as we prepare for the move to a new system.