Historic Houses responds to publication of the Agriculture Bill
Yesterday (12 September) the Government published the Agriculture Bill, which sets out the government's plans for agricultural policy and funding once we have left the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Agriculture Bill follows on from the Health and Harmony consultation earlier this year, which Historic Houses responded to.
As well as providing direct payments to farmers and land managers, CAP funding has provided crucial capital funding for important rural development and rural tourism projects, which many Historic Houses places have benefited from and wouldn't have been able to fund without. While we await further details about the exact nature of the Environmental Land Management system (ELMs) proposed in the Bill, Historic Houses is delighted that the Government has recognised cultural heritage as an important public good, and that farmers and land managers who restore or maintain cultural heritage will be rewarded and supported. We also very much welcome the Bill's provision for the continuation of rural development programmes post-Brexit.
Under the draft legislation the transition from EU CAP payments to the UK ELMs will take place over seven years from 2021. ELMs payments will go to farmers and land managers who provide public goods. These public goods are defined by the Bill as: managing land or water in a way the protects or improves the environment; supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland, or woodland and better understanding of the environment; managing land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances cultural heritage or natural heritage; mitigating or adapting to climate change; preventing, reducing or protecting from environmental hazards; protecting or improving the health or welfare of livestock; protecting or improving the health of plants.
We do, however, share the concerns of the NFU, National Trust and others that the Government has yet to confirm how much money will be available for ELMs, and we are particularly concerned that the levels of funding in the scheme might not match current levels of support from the EU after 2027. For many Historic Houses places it is the farmland surrounding the house that helps to generate essential funds for the maintenance, repair and conservation of nationally important heritage; if farm incomes drop post-Brexit the upkeep of this important heritage could be put at risk. We look forward to further detail from Government.