From the BBC:
Farmers getting public grants should be forced to capture water on their land to prevent floods downstream, environmentalists have said.
Green group WWF said farmers should get subsidies only if they agreed to create small floods on their own land to avoid wider flooding in towns and villages.
The average family pays £400 a year in grants to farmers. Farmers' leaders rejected the idea but said they would support incentives to farmers to prevent flooding.
WWF is already working with eight farmers on the young River Nar in Norfolk in an experimental project to restore upstream rivers to their original state.
Rivers have been squeezed into straight, fast-flowing channels over hundreds of years to hurry rainwater off fields. But that has contributed to flooding of prime agricultural land downstream. Fast-flowing rivers also carry silt which causes rivers to clog up.
The greedy so-and-so's!
They want compensation to compensate them for no longer getting subsidies for causing flooding on other people's land.
As ever LVT will sort this out. Farmland subsidies are negative LVT and so ought to be abolished anyway.
I observe that assessing the value of farmland is a lot trickier than assessing location values in developed, urban areas, but we could just reinstate Agricultural Rates to all non-forestry land at a token figure of about £20 per acre per year, regardless of whether the annual value is £10 or £100, and see what happens.
The point being, that farmers/landowners will stop farming the least productive bits of land, they can plant trees on these instead to do a bit of tax-free forestry, and if the land won't even support that, they can leave it as flood plain or allow other enthusiasts/landowners further downstream to reinstate 'natural' woodland.
The good news is that the bits which the farmers will stop using first are precisely the least productive bits - i.e. the least accessible bits (steeper slopes) and the most-likely-to-flood bits (right next to streams and rivers) and those are the best areas to reforest (helps soak up rainwater) or leave au naturel (flood barrier).
As a quid pro quo, we could apply the same tax exemptions which forestry gets to actual farming. Forestry incurs by and large no CGT, IHT, income or corporation tax on profits and is VAT-zero rated - and gets relatively little in the way of grants.
We might as well go further and exempt farmers and forestry businesses from Business Rates on their outbuildings or from having to deduct PAYE from their workers' wages (fair's fair).
Job done. Whether £20 per acre is the right amount, we will have to wait and see, the optimum cut-off amount might well be higher than that.
Wednesday, 29 January 2014
From the BBC: