Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:25 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Graeme Willis:

I think it is well attested that the CAP scheme is inefficient, ineffective and inequitable. People such as Allan Buckwell and Alan Matthews have made that point, and DEFRA’s own research has shown that, and there have been statements, so we very much support that view. In terms of the current countryside stewardship schemes, as Jim said, it is very important that farmers keep faith with those schemes. The simplification has been very helpful.

Certainly within DEFRA, I have been making the point that those schemes are probably under-commented on, because we have a 2030 deadline for addressing climate change by cutting emissions very significantly. Four years through to when ELMs beds in is a very important period in which to get trees in the ground and to get peatland and other high-carbon soils restored. It is very important in this phase to keep putting money in and investing in farming. It is very important that farmers keep faith with that, and the schemes have been expanding, which is very welcome after a rocky start.

We believe that public goods for public money is the right way forward. It is the absolute crux for enhancing the environment, obviously addressing climate change and biodiversity issues. But, as Jim said, it is very important to harmonise what farmers do in producing food and other goods with environmental improvements which we know are very necessary. Bringing those two together is critical so that they are not seem as oppositional.