A warm response has met Environment Secretary Michael Gove's plans to replace farm subsidies based on the amount of land owned, with funding to support farmers to provide public benefits, including environmentally friendly practices and better access to the countryside.

British Veterinary Association president John Fishwick said: "Delivering public goods should be at the heart of a new post Brexit agricultural policy, benefiting producers, consumers and wider society.

“Today Mr Gove committed to investing in the public goods of the natural environment, technology and skills, infrastructure, public access and rural resilience. Yet any post Brexit agricultural policy must also support animal health and welfare as public goods, since these are the very reasons that we have our global reputation for agricultural produce and high standards.

“In equipping the next generation of farmers with the latest tech and training, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of continued side-by-side working between farmers and local vets in order to optimise animal health and welfare, productivity and competitiveness.

“Vets are integral to food production, from farm to fork, and so vets must also be an integral part of any policy development, review and implementation."

Helen Browning, chief executive of Soil Association said: "We warmly welcome the move towards an agricultural policy that prioritises environmental protection and the new emphasis on the vital links between food, farming and public health. The clear timetable provides much-needed certainty for farmers, whilst the commitments on public procurement and better labelling are important for food producers and consumers alike.

"We now need to see more detail on how farmers will be enabled and encouraged to shift to higher animal welfare systems, move away from synthetic pesticides, restore degraded soils and improve water quality. The greatest test of this transition is whether the UK’s food and farming system measures up to the monumental challenges of public health, which was highlighted in the speech, and climate change, which received just two mentions. The government must also make an ambitious and unambiguous commitment to organic and other agroecological approaches which are proven to deliver on animal welfare, biodiversity, soil health and climate change - both during and after 2024."

Dr Simon Cripps, Chief Executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust said: “This very day we stand on the cusp of a revolution in how we protect and manage the countryside on which we are all dependant, either for food, health or enjoyment.”

CLA director of policy Christopher Price said: “We have been clear that significant change is necessary but it is right to take the necessary time to design and implement a policy without causing immediate and dramatic disruption to thousands of farming businesses across the countryside. We are pleased the Secretary of State has listened to our concerns on this issue and extended the period of operation of the existing Basic Payment Scheme to ensure a full and smooth transition.

“We also welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment that no business entering a Countryside Stewardship scheme will be unfairly disadvantaged. This guarantee will help to give farmers confidence to enter schemes this year and next. We must not lose any momentum in improving participation in environmental schemes.

“We will consider the forthcoming consultation on capping of payments closely. The Secretary of State has been clear that businesses must be rewarded for what they do, not the amount of land they own. That will not be the case if a poorly thought through and rushed capping policy excludes and alienates businesses simply because of their size.”

Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato said: "Farmers committed to working with nature were pleased to hear about Michael Gove’s plans to shift subsidies away from landholding to environmental benefits, but given his past record on environmental matters there is also understandable scepticism. To reassure the doubters Michael Gove could act now and use the flexibility within the CAP system to make some changes immediately I would suggest as a minimum that he introduces a maximum level of land-based payments and increases the proportion of payments that are given in return for wildlife-friendly farming. This would be a clear signal that the Environment Secretary’s commitment to a so-called green position is more than political positioning."