The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed a new roadmap published by the government setting out a new system for farming in England intended to reward farmers for higher standards of animal welfare and steps to protect the environment.
Since its inception, the BVA has been part of a steering group which has designed the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, helping to inform animal health and welfare outcomes within The Path to Sustainable Farming: An Agricultural Transition Plan 2021 to 2024, and new Agriculture Act.
The roadmap, created by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), outlines changes that will come into force over a period of seven years.
The aim is that, by 2028, farmers will be paid "public money for public goods".
Some of its key recommendations include:
- Investing in improving animal health and welfare as part of a sustainable farming approach;
- Launching a Farming Investment Fund, which will support innovation and productivity;
- Introducing the Environmental Land Management scheme to incentivise sustainable farming practices and creating habitats for nature recovery and increase biodiversity.
Commenting on the new plan, BVA President James Russell said:
"We understand that farmers and vets will be feeling anxious about the phasing out of direct payments.
"That is why it is good to see this document out in the public domain and seeing more detail of how England will transition from the current system to a set of schemes supporting public goods.
In particular, it is great to see the document set out by the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway that vets have had so much involvement in, from the very start.
"Alongside some of our species-specific divisions, we have been able to advise and influence decisions on how the scheme will benefit animal health and welfare drawing on our UK Sustainable Animal Agriculture position."
'The vet-farmer relationship'
"The new document highlights the importance of the vet-farmer relationship and it is essential that these changes work in practice for our members and our farming colleagues.
The implementation phase will be critical. Although the publication of this document has given us some clarity on what will be coming up, we look forward to building on it.
"In the meantime, we encourage our members to work closely with their farm clients to start planning for the changes ahead.
"As different policies are rolled out in the four nations of the UK, we reiterate our call for cross-government mechanisms to be put in place to ensure coordination on animal health and welfare, biosecurity, and surveillance," he concluded.