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Summary of George Eustace’s Speech to NFU

26 February

Plans for future greener farming


Secretary of State, George Eustice’s address at 2020 NFU conference

Delivered on: 26 February 2020

In a Nutshell

Farm policy is undergoing biggest change in 50 years, which presents:

  • A threat to some existing farmers
  • An opportunity for new people to enter farming, bringing new ideas and fresh thinking

Where we are now

New policy needs to address existing inequalities

Currently Basic Payments Scheme is based simply on land area which benefits the largest wealthiest landowners most of all. Conversely, some are excluded altogether (up to 30% of sheep farmers) because they don’t meet technical criteria.

New farmers need to be able to access land to realise their ambitions.

Current Common Agricultural Policy is “irrational” and “arbitrary” and encourages land to remain occupied and farmers to “coast” simply to collect the subsidy. This land could be put to better use, encouraging innovation and risk taking to drive the industry forwards.

The Agriculture Bill sets out how BPS payment will start reducing from 2021. They will introduce a new option:

  • Farmers could take several years BPS payment as a final settlement in exchange for surrendering tenancy, selling or leasing out their farm. (Aimed at older farmers wanting to retire)


  • BPS reductions will be applied most heavily to largest landowners
  • Crop Diversification Rule to be reviewed
  • Countryside Stewardship Scheme may be simplified

What comes next?

Environmental Land Management to be rolled by end 2024.

3 elements:

  1. Sustainable farming incentive encouraging integrated pest management, sensitive hedgerow management and soil health
  2. Local environment tier to incentivise creation of habitats, improving biodiversity, tree planting, and natural flood management.
  3. Landscape scale tier to support woodland creation, peatland restoration and other potential land use changes.

Addressing concerns from previous draft Agriculture Bill

  • Increased prominence of food, including five yearly government review of food security, ensuring that food is produced sustainably.
  • Multi year plans will be set up firstly for the 7 year transition period and then five-yearly plans
  • Soil health added as an objective
  • Native breeds to be valued to ensure genetic diversity can be maintained
  • Supply chain will be transparent to ensure farmers get a fair share
  • Grants will be introduced to help farmers add value to produce and reduce costs


Won’t be rushed – a seven year timescale is set out for transition from legacy EU scheme to new policy

Next Steps

UK has high standards of food safety and animal welfare, based on provenance. Must not be jeopardised through trade deals.

Will publish mandate for trade negotiations with EU in “coming days”

Will “shortly” publish response to Sir Charles Godfray’s review of Defra’s 25-Year bovine TB strategy.


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