While there is still nothing new coming from the Government on what a post- Brexit farm policy will look like, The Farmers Unions are gearing up to have their say – and they will expect to have the lion’s share of the conversations with and influence over Government Departments at UK and devolved administrations.
The National Farmers Union, long known as a fully deniable department within the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, has not yet publicly announced its proposals for the new farming policy, though its President had “robust” discussions with Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom on monday. NFU are very worried indeed that English farmers will lose access to the Single Market under a Hard Brexit. If this happens tariffs will be introduced making our food more expensive for our EU neighbours to import. There would go some highly lucrative export markets.
Meanwhile in Wales on monday, the Farmers Union of Wales launched their Brexit Briefing Paper – except they haven’t actually made it available to the public (yet). I was looking forward to reading what they were proposing, but had to make do with a load of press releases instead. One thing did catch my eye.
The FUW claimed that World Trade Organisation rules prevent a Welsh or UK Government adopting a “farm payments for public goods” approach, to replace the awful Common Agricultural Policy.This is what they said:
Curious, I looked up the relevant wording in the WTO (annex 2 para 12). This is what it says:
That looks pretty clear to me – WTO rules, as you would expect, do allow payment for public goods – as long as those payments reflect additional costs, loss of income and have clearly defined benefits for the environment.
So if a farmer was paid to alter the way they farmed their land – to reduce downstream flooding for example; and this involved capital spend on eg blocking drains or creating new wetlands; and there was a quantifiable loss of income because there was less arable or pasture land to produce food, then WTO rules would allow those payments to be made.
Am I missing something, or is the FUW deliberately trying to portray a “public goods for public money” approach as breaching trade rules?