MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has condemned the lack of clarity over future Government farming policies, warning it is placing thousands of farmers under ‘intolerable’ strain.

He says Defra has failed to appreciate the importance of forward planning in agriculture and seems to be treating food production as something that can be turned off and on like a tap.

Following Brexit, UK farmers are set to lose £3.5billion annually in direct support payments.

These will be reduced and replaced with schemes that will reward environmental improvements.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said insufficient detail of the scope of the new policy or the payment levels has been released.

He added: “Those proposed payments that have been revealed so far have prompted a lot of farmers to decide they simply aren’t worth applying for.

“But a full year after leaving the EU, Defra still hasn’t provided complete information as to how one of our most important economic sectors is going to be supported.”

Thousands of farms have only been theoretically profitable thanks to the annual injection of EU cash. There are now fears of widespread business failures.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said Defra’s dilatory progress on spelling out the new framework is unacceptable.

“Defra had five years from the referendum decision to draw up new policies, consult with farmers and refine them into something broadly acceptable, yet here we are more than a year after we actually left the EU with dribs and drabs of policy being trickled out with the ink still wet,” he said.

“The Secretary of State comes from a farming background and he must know full well that farming operations cannot be turned on and off like a tap.

"They have to be planned one, two, or even three years ahead.

“Yet he has left thousands of farmers trying to organise planting programmes and schedule other operations without knowing whether they will be in a position to carry them out – or indeed still in business.

“Sadly this is typical of how Defra has consistently undervalued farmers and their contributions not merely to the national diet but to the quality of our superb landscapes.

“Given all the uncertainties that always bedevil farming – the weather, price movements, uncontrollable input costs - agriculture is already one of the most stressful of all occupations, hence the shockingly high number of suicides recorded.

“Defra’s appalling tardiness in setting out its blueprint for the future of farming in this country is merely creating further, intolerable stress.”