Brexit offers an “historic” chance to reshape agricultural policy for farmers and consumers, Michael Gove says.
The new environment secretary said leaving the EU was a chance to remove “cumbersome bureaucracy” and replace “inefficient subsidies” with a better form of financial support for farmers.
Mr Gove was recalled to the front bench after the general election.
He was addressing a meeting in Parliament organised by the National Farmers’ Union.
The NFU has warned that the “wrong” kind of Brexit deal could result in seasonal labour shortages and the government having to pay billions in direct financial assistance to help farmers cope with market and price volatility.
Mr Gove said while EU membership had helped improve environmental standards and encouraged rural diversification, it had had a harmful impact in other areas and the UK’s exit from the common agricultural policy meant the UK would no longer be “dictated to” by Brussels.
“We now have an opportunity to put things right,” he said.
He pledged to listen to and learn from the industry as the Brexit process unfolded and be their “energetic champion” in government.
While farmers were excellent custodians of the environment, he said, he recognised that the industry had to be financially viable because people were “running businesses not just providing scenery”.
Mr Gove, whose appointment was criticised by some environmental campaigners, also said combating air pollution would be a priority for him in his new role since clean air was a vital resource for the countryside.