The Agriculture Bill has been published again (for the second time), but this time there is little doubt that it will become an act of parliament. The bill doesn’t give a lot of detail, but it does give a very good indication of the direction of travel for agricultural policy.

There are a number of key points which are worth highlighting:

• There will be a seven year ‘transition’ from the current support system to the new one, starting in 2021.
• There will be progressive cuts to direct payments during this time.
• Direct payments will be delinked from any requirement to farm.
• Farmers will be paid for environmental management.
• There will also be payments to help improve productivity and animal welfare.
There are a couple of specific areas of policy where we do know a bit more information and it’s worth highlighting these.

Basic Payment Scheme

BPS will remain the same for 2020 with the seven year ‘agricultural transition’ period starting in 2021. This means that direct payments, via BPS, will be phased out during this period. There is also the potential for BPS to be simplified and it is hoped that this should allow the ‘three crop’ or ‘crop diversification’ rules to be scrapped.

The Bill also provides the power for ‘lump sum’ payments to be made in lieu of anticipated annual payments. This could be a great opportunity for many, but a lot more detail will be required before any plans can be made.

Environmental and Countryside Stewardship

‘Public money for public good’ is the often-repeated mantra for the future of subsidies, but this is an overused phrase and we don’t know what it actually means for those on the ground, and probably won’t for some time yet.

We do know that the new regime will be called the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), as it is currently being piloted in different parts of the country.

The new scheme will be designed to support clean air, clean water, thriving plants and wildlife, reducing flooding and drought, sustainable use of resources (soil is specifically mentioned), mitigating climate change, and enhanced beauty and heritage of the natural environment.
There is no doubt that there will be huge structural change in the coming years given the change in focus of support and funding. If you haven’t already done so, now would be a very good time to take a cold hard look at your business and property assets to see if you are best placed to deal with the changes and pressures that are coming.

If you would like any advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch – 01684 325215 / 07814 033449