Lets hope Mr Gove remains in post long enough to do what he intends. Just as health takes time to deliver change, so does the environment. The rejection of a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone recently in Wales does not bode well..

Under the title line “Green Brexit”, the Times leader 5th Jan reads:

A revolution is coming to the British countryside and its flag carrier is Michael Gove. Under reforms announced by the environment secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference, the “unjust” and “inefficient” subsidies of the EU common agricultural policy (CAP) will be abandoned. In their place, farmers will receive incentives to become stewards of the rural environment.

The broad thrust of these plans for the post-Brexit countryside is positive. When Mr Gove was appointed environment secretary, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader, said that he was “entirely unfit for the job”. He has consistently demonstrated otherwise, so far earning the approval of farmers and environmentalists alike. His latest proposals should keep him on that path.

At the core of the reforms will be the abolition of European subsidies awarded according to the size of a farmer’s landholdings. Under this perverse system, a Saudi racehorse breeder on a Newmarket farm receives £400,000 a year. Sir James Dyson, the billionaire inventor, gets substantial sums towards the maintenance of land he owns in Lincolnshire and elsewhere. After 2024 this will change. Farmers who undertake to “enhance the natural environment” will receive payments before wealthy landowners. Planting woodland or cultivating wildflower meadows will form the new basis for subsidies, funding a reversal of one of the more depressing ecological trends of recent decades. Since 1945 more than 97 per cent of Britain’s wildflower meadows have been lost, and with them much of the country’s wildlife.

As well as rewarding farmers who help to conserve “public goods”, Mr Gove’s reforms aim to address British farming’s unsustainable dependence on subsidies. At present, 55 per cent of farming income comes from European subsidies. Critics of the switch to stewardship as the main criterion for public funds say that it will unfairly favour richer farmers who can afford to adapt their business accordingly. Mr Gove must prove them wrong.

Eighteen months ago the countryside voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Since then many farmers have grown alarmed at talk of a future without CAP-style subsidies in which their produce must compete with cheap imports thanks to new trade deals with nations outside the EU. Mr Gove’s proposals offer stability in the transition to another sort of farming. For farmers hitherto dependent on EU subsidies, his commitment to matching them until 2024 (an earlier promise extended only until 2022) will come as a relief.