GEORGE EUSTICE said the new farming subsidies will be much simpler than the “hopelessly bureaucratic” EU system.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the Environment Secretary said: “It’s an opportunity to do things far better than we could under the Common Agricultural Policy – it was renowned for being hopelessly bureaucratic.

“It also doled out money to farmers based on how much land they owned or rented, and, as a result, the biggest sums of money goes to the largest and wealthiest land-owners.”

Mr Eustice promised that farmers who rely on EU subsidy payments will not be left high and dry by the Government’s post-Brexit payment system.

He added: “We don’t think that makes sense, so gradually, over the next seven years, we are going to change the system to remove those arbitrary, area-based subsidy payments and instead reward farmers for making space for nature on their farm, farming more sustainably to improve water quality, and also enhancing animal welfare.”

“We are very mindful of the dependency on these subsidy payments; that is why we are not going to do this overnight,” he said.

“This will be an evolution, not a revolution; we are going to change things over seven years.”

He continued: “What we believe in all of this is that if we properly reward farmers for what they do for the environment and pay them something that has also got a margin in it as well to incentivise good uptake, that will help their profitability.

“We’ve also got other measures set out in our Agriculture Bill to improve fairness in the supply chain – one of the reasons farmers have needed subsidy payments is because, frankly, they don’t get a fair enough share from the value chain for the food that they produce.

“So we are going to improve fairness and transparency in the supply chain so they get a fair price for the food they produce – that’s the way to address poor farm profitability.”

He said the new sustainable farming incentives “will really support farmers to do things like catchment sensitive farming, improve water quality, sensitive hedgerow management, to make space to farmland birds.”

The scheme would also help improve soil quality, said Mr Eustice, “where there is great potential to lock up more carbon and see an improvement in biodiversity”.

“I think that when you design and roll out a scheme like this, they shouldn’t be an overnight revolution, a big bang change in one year, you should do what we set out which is a progressive change during the course of seven years.”

He said the new scheme will see “a trusted advisor who walks the farm with the farmer, sits down around the kitchen table and helps him put together something that is right for his land”.

“We are slashing in half a lot of the pointless rules and regulations that we inherited from the EU.

He added: “As we designed the new scheme we want it to be less rules-based, much more based on an individual assessment of an individual farm and doing what’s right for nature on that farm.”

When asked about the impact on food prices, he said the Government believed prices would remain stable.

“But we’ve got other measures in our Bill as well for making sure farmers get a fairer share of the value of the food they produce,” he said.

Mr Eustice continued: “One of the problems at the moment is a fragmented sector in a supply chain where you have large players and they frankly don’t get often a fair price for the food they are producing within that value chain.

“If we can correct that we will have stable food prices, an improved farm environment and better farm profitability too.”