The Richborough solar farm

No more solar farms at expense of food production

The UK Environment Secretary Liz Truss will end a £2m subsidy program for solar farms saying it's food production that needs the support more.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been in charge of a £100 an acre scheme administering money from the European Union’s Common Agriculture Policy.

Under the scheme, farmers have been able to claim subsidies for covering their land with solar panels.

However, as Truss said, the number of solar farms springing up is now threatening food production and is a ‘blight on the countryside.’

"I want Britain to lead the world in food and farming and to do that we need enough productive agricultural land,” Truss told the Mail on Sunday.

'I'm very concerned that a lot of our land is being taken up with solar farms. We've already got 250 of them and we've got 10,000 football pitches worth of new solar farms in the pipeline."

With food production being the UK’s number one manufacturing industry, adding £100bn a year to the economy, Truss said there is no justification for turning even more productive land into solar farms.

"I'm not against them per se - they're fine on commercial roofs and school roofs - but it's a big problem if we are using land that can be used to grow crops, fruit and vegetables,” the Environment Secretary said.

"We import two-thirds of our apples, and using more land for solar panels makes it harder to improve that."

The decision follows an earlier announcement by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) to  reduce its support for large-scale solar farms, with subsidies under the existing "renewables obligation" ending next April, two years before they are curtailed for other technologies.

Decc said the move was necessary as large-scale solar developments - which have caused some controversy because of their impact on the countryside - were growing faster than expected and would exceed the budget for subsidies by £40 million in the next two years.

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