To many environmentalists, the new agriculture bill for England and Wales seemed too good to be true. Instead of providing subsidies simply for owning and cultivating land, the bill – widely seen as a departure from previous farming governance under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – promised “public money for public goods”. That meant farmers could expect state aid if they delivered things that everyone benefits from, but that the market doesn’t reward – such as clean air and water, biodiversity and access to beautiful landscapes.
Unfortunately, experience from the past 30 years of public goods-based agricultural policies in the UK and across the EU shows that rather than protecting or enhancing the environment, this approach only accelerates the race to the bottom for farming standards. Here’s why. MORE