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Post-Brexit farm payments to be used to help the environment

Up to £150m in support payments could be shifted from the richest farmers to environmental schemes after Brexit, under government plans.

The UK Government has published a consultation on its plans for agriculture after the UK leaves the EU. The consultation entitled ‘Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit’ proposes that public money will no longer be given to farmers for the amount of land they own. Instead it will be allocated for the delivery of sustainable production, environmental enhancement, animal welfare and trialling new technologies to name a few. This will be a significant shift from the current EU funded Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) as DEFRA Secretary of State Michael Gove seeks fund contributions towards habitat management, flood protection and climate change mitigation.   

A combine harvester

Farmers will receive money for "public goods", such as investment in sustainable food production

However, Nature Matters NI, a joint campaign of leading environmental NGOs, is concerned that without a Northern Ireland Executive, there is a real risk that NI will fall behind the rest of the UK. 

John Martin, from the Nature Matters NI campaign said:

“Brexit offers a once in a generation opportunity to reform the NI’s agriculture policy in a way that delivers for farmers and for nature. We are glad to see the environment at the heart of proposals for England, however with no NI Assembly in operation there is no clarity on the future policy direction for Northern Ireland. We are pleased to see reference to working together with other devolved governments through common frameworks where necessary and adherence to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which highlights agriculture as an area of cooperation. However, there is a clear decision making and policy vacuum for future policy development in Northern Ireland that must be urgently addressed. The Defra consultation will inform the development of the Agriculture Bill which needs to pass through Westminster before we leave the EU (March 2019). Without a NI Assembly in place to form policy or legislate for any future changes, there is clear cause for concern. We would like to see the health of the environment at the heart of a future agriculture policy for Northern Ireland to ensure the industry is set on a sustainable path”.

John Carson, an organic farmer and chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network in NI said:

“There is nothing better than nature, farmers are the custodians of rural areas and we want people to enjoy the splendour of the countryside. More information and support is required from the Westminster Government to encourage more farmers to protect nature and wildlife in Northern Ireland.”

The Defra consultation opened on the 27th February 2018, and will last 10 weeks, closing on the 8th of May. 

More information via BBC



Nature Matters NI is a joint campaign of major environmental NGOs in Northern Ireland, working together to ensure the best deal for the environment post–Brexit. Created by the NIEL Brexit Coalition in response to the threats posed to environmental legislation and protections by leaving the EU, the campaign is advocating along three major strands: Nature and Environmental Protection; Agriculture and Land–Use Policies; and Marine and Fisheries Policies.

There are approximately 100,000 members of environmental organisations in Northern Ireland, so we know that people care about these issues. 

The following organisations are currently involved in the campaign:

  • Buglife
  • Butterfly Conservation
  • Climate NI
  • Friends of the Earth
  • NI Bat Group
  • Northern Ireland Environment Link
  • Northern Ireland Marine Task Force
  • National Trust
  • The Woodland Trust
  • Ulster Angling Federation
  • Ulster Wildlife

For further information please contact:

Sairah Tariq 
028 906 90851 
077 0137 2477