ANY farmer or landowner who has gone through the Countryside Stewardship subsidy application process knows it is hideously complex, while the Basic Payment Scheme – which attracts annual headlines about some of the biggest recipients being billionaire landowners – is in desperate need of reform. From the day Michael Gove took office as Environment Secretary, it was clear that he is determined to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to shake-up the subsidy system and give payments – originally aimed at maintaining food security – a greater ‘green’ focus.

His speech to the Oxford Farming Conference today held few surprises in that regard, but farmers will be heartened that he envisages subsidies continuing at the same level for five years from 2019 – two years longer than originally stated – to help the industry avoid any Brexit cliff-edges.

There have been fears that Mr Gove’s focus on the environment over any other considerations would mean that support for the actual business of producing food would be missing from his future plans, so proposals to make public money available to support advances in technology, skills and rural infrastructure will be welcomed in communities which often feel left behind their urban counterparts in these areas.

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Defra’s plans are due to be published in full in the spring, and unlike other aspects of this increasingly-rushed Brexit process, the longer transitional period will give agriculture time to adapt to the new economic landscape. Other industries may not have this luxury.