Farmers will be given bigger public subsidies for taking better care of their livestock under Government plans for a “green Brexit”, Michael Gove will say today.
The Environment secretary will say that improved animal welfare standards will be one of the “public goods” which will attract more Government funding.
Landowners who encouraged people to be more “connected” to the countryside and increased understanding of farming would also benefit from more funds.
Mr Gove’s department has been waging a policy war with Labour over areas of environmental policy like fox hunting and animal sentience for several months.
Last week Labour published a wide-ranging strategy for boosting animal welfare in the UK, including enshrining animal sentience in law, reviewing animal testing and banning foie gras.
Mr Gove is now drawing up plans to set out how the Government will spend the £3billion which farmers currently receive annually from the EU in subsidies after Brexit. A command paper on agriculture will be published by the end of next month.
In his speech today to the National Farming Union’s annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Gove will say: “I believe investing in higher animal welfare standards and investing in improved training and education for those in agriculture and food production are clear public goods.
“We have a high baseline for animal health standards, which we will continue to enforce. However, we could also support industry-led initiatives to improve these standards, especially in cases where animal welfare remains at the legislative minimum.
“This may include pilot schemes that offer payments to farmers delivering higher welfare outcomes, or payments to farmers running trial approaches and technologies to improve animal welfare that are not yet an industry standard.”
Farmers who open up their land to encourage members of the public to feel more “connected” to the countryside will receive more cash, he will say.
He will say: “Public access to the countryside is another public good we value. Not that we should encourage everyone to ride or walk roughshod through working areas, but the more connected we all are to the countryside, the more we know and appreciate what’s involved in farming and food production, the more understanding there will be of the need to value and support what farmers do.”
Mr Gove will tell the NFU conference that the voice of farmers and food producers is now more central to Government thinking than at any time for fifty years because ministers are able to draw up a farming policy free of EU involvement.
Central to Government policy will be recognising that farmers play a key role in creating the most beautiful parts of the country.
He will say: “We have to ensure future methods of agricultural support recognise how critical it is to value the culture in agriculture.
“Devon and Somerset would not be as they are - with the countryside as beautiful as it is and communities as resilient as they are - without dairy farmers.
“Cumbria and Northumberland, Yorkshire’s Dales and Pennine Lancashire would not be as they are - both as breathtakingly beautiful and as resilient - without upland farmers.
“Men and women are hefted in those hills just as much as the sheep they care for. And preserving profitable farm businesses in those communities is just as much a public good as investment in anything I know.”