The CLA has told a House of Lords Committee that the UK has a real opportunity to enhance on-farm environmental work once it leaves the EU.

In a submission to the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, which is holding an inquiry into the environment and climate change in post Brexit Britain, the CLA said that, with the right post-Brexit policies, on-farm conservation work was capable of delivering far more for the environment.

But the organisation warned that realising this potential would depend on the Government’s commitment to supporting environmental work within a new long-term domestic Food, Farming and Environmental policy.

CLA South West Director, John Mortimer, said: “Farmers and landowners have been working to improve the environment within an increasingly bureaucratic and inflexible system meaning that process and bureaucracy have trumped the focus on providing the greatest environmental, economic and social benefits for the UK.”

This had, said Mr Mortimer, been due in part to the pressures put on Government from the threat of so called ‘disallowance’ fines – penalties payable to the European Commission. when it considers a Member State has not complied with the rules on the administration of CAP payments.

Between 2005 and 2015 Defra incurred a total of £642 million in financial penalties relating to the CAP. The main causes of these ‘disallowance penalties’ in the UK were late payment to farmers, poor mapping data used to verify applications, and shortcomings in cross-compliance controls.

The CLA says the Government now has the opportunity to work with landowners and farmers to identify the best approach for the UK.

“A system where payments are more closely linked to work to achieve specific environmental outcomes could mean important improvements for the environment. However, farmers and landowners need to have certainty from Government so that they can include this work in their business plans for the coming years.

We are urging Government to commit to long-term support for environmental land management work after Brexit, as part of a new world-leading UK Food, Farming and Environmental policy,” said Mr Mortimer.

The CLA has also emphasised to the Committee that the UK will have an opportunity to adopt a more ambitious approach to incentivising renewable energy generation outside of the EU.

“Rural landowners are playing an important role in the generation of renewable energy, particularly through solar and wind power and anaerobic digestion – and there is potential for landowners to make an even greater contribution as both technologies and markets develop further in the coming years.

“We look forward to working with Government to identify how UK policy post-Brexit can do more to support and expand on-farm environmental work and to encourage landowners to invest in projects that will help the UK meet renewable energy targets,” he said.