LONDON (Reuters) – The British parliament approved a new agriculture law on Wednesday that will reward farmers for taking better care of the environment, as the country prepares to exit the European Union’s single market and customs union on Dec. 31.
The National Farmers Union (NFU), which has long campaigned for food safety and animal welfare standards to be enshrined in UK law after Brexit, hailed the law as a “landmark moment” that will set out how Britain farms for generations to come.
Under the law, farmers in England will receive public funds for ‘public goods’ such as better air and water quality, thriving wildlife, soil health, or measures to reduce flooding and tackle climate change, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Further details will be announced in November, and the changes will be phased in over seven years, it added.
Policies may differ in Scotland and Wales, where devolved administrations control farm spending.
Britain, which formally left the EU in January, continues to abide by the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as part of transitional arrangements which end on Dec. 31.
Its farmers currently receive around 3 billion pounds ($3.96 billion) a year in public funds under the CAP. For some farmers, this can represent up to 70% of their income.
The British government, which has criticised CAP payments as poorly targeted and skewed towards helping bigger landowners, will gradually phase out direct payments to farmers in the move towards a system more closely linked to providing ‘public goods’.
Under the new law, the NFU said, a report will be presented to parliament on the impacts that post-Brexit trade deals with other countries could have on the UK’s food and farming sector.
The NFU said the law “will also now play a crucial role in ensuring our farmers are not undercut in future trade deals by food imports that would be illegal to produce here”.
Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Gareth Jones