The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have recently scrutinised the Agricultural Transition Plan that aims to ensure a sustainable English farming sector in the years to come. The Committee focused their review mainly on the development and roll-out of the Environmental Land Management scheme and the removal of direct payments through the Basic Payment Scheme. The Committee highlighted a number of concerns which we can summarise below.
The report emphasises the uncertainty regarding how the 7-year agricultural transition will affect English farming. The Committee are concerned that, to date, Defra has not published a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of its policy, and the Secretary of State himself acknowledged and said that “we know who will lose money but not how many will take up the new schemes”.
The Committee also goes on to say that “Defra must do more to give us confidence that it will take account of changing circumstances as the agricultural transition proceeds”.
Their findings suggest that “delays in communication about the new policy have already impacted farmers’ ability to plan for the significant changes ahead”. They describe how it is essential that “every farmer and land manager is made aware of what is coming”. The report goes on to explain “If a clear strategy to communicate Defra’s plans to the full range of farmers and land managers is not in place, the agricultural transition risks falling at the first hurdle”.
Further comments from the report include:
- - “Defra is already in the process of delivering its multi-billion-pound ELM programme without having published any measurable objectives”.
- - “Those farming the uplands, and tenanted and common land, will face particular challenges during the agricultural transition, and Defra must not squander the considerable potential of this land to deliver public goods”.
- - “It is important that the Sustainable Farming Incentive does not repeat the failures of previous agri-environment schemes that achieved high uptake but failed to drive significant environmental delivery”.
- - “We share the concerns of many that the existing approach to calculating payments based on ‘income foregone’ will be unattractive to farmers and ineffective for the environment”.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU and the phasing out of direct subsidy payments, UK agriculture now faces its biggest change in policy in decades.
As the focus moves to payment for “public goods”, the report also highlights how important it is that farmers are supported and are able to access expert advice to guide them through this transition whilst safeguarding their business for the future.
To ensure you are fully prepared for the future, receiving expert advice regarding your individual circumstances is essential to help guide you through these changes.
If you would like to know more about how the agricultural transition plan will affect your business and the opportunities for your farm going forward, please contact Elliot Taylor on 07590 445301.