RICHMOND MP Rishi Sunak has welcomed the Government’s pledge to maintain farm subsidies at current levels until 2022 and possibly beyond.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove made the pledge at last week’s Oxford Farming Conference.

The Government has agreed to maintain current subsidies for three years after Brexit, until 2022, and Mr Gove said the payments could continue until 2024 but the length of time would be down to “consultation”. Mr Sunak said Mr Gove’s commitment was the news farmers wanted to hear to help their business plans for the next five years.

He said: “The Government’s pledge gives farmers the stability and security they need in the short term and also provides the opportunity to work out the detail of a British Agricultural Policy that’s tailor-made for British farmers and which meets the expectations of the British consumer.”

Mr Sunak said Mr Gove’s speech set out a clear pathway to a British-designed support system that provided the help essential to maintain hill farming in the UK, while encouraging environmental best practice, world-leading animal welfare standards and reward for farming innovation.

The current payment system – £3bn a year to UK farmers – is based on the amount of land farmers own.

Detailing how the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be replaced after Brexit, Mr Gove said the CAP “doesn’t really reward efficiency”.

“Of course, the CAP has evolved, and indeed improved, over time. But it is still a fundamentally flawed design,” he said. “Paying landowners for the amount of agricultural land they have is unjust, inefficient and drives perverse outcomes.

“It gives the most from the public purse to those who have the most private wealth.

“It bids up the price of land, distorting the market, creating a barrier to entry for innovative new farmers and entrenching lower productivity.

“Indeed, perversely, it rewards farmers for sticking to methods of production that are resource-inefficient and also incentivises an approach to environmental stewardship which is all about mathematically precise field margins and not truly ecologically healthy landscapes.”

Mr Gove said that over time he aimed to reduce the largest subsidies, with a maximum cap or a sliding scale of reductions.

He said there should be a “smooth path” towards a new way of paying farmers when EU subsidies ended and that a new method would “use public money for public goods”.

The plans would see farmers rewarded for planting woodland, boosting wildlife, improving water quality and recreating wildflower meadows.

The environment secretary said he was “confident” about the future of British farming and that Brexit would allow the UK to “leverage” the advantages of Britain producing “the best food in the world” and “some of the most innovative farmers in the world”.

New trade deals with other countries outside the EU would provide new markets for the “superb food” Britain’s farmers produce, Mr Gove said.