New DEFRA Guidance: ‘Farming is Changing’

Amid the ongoing uncertainty regarding the future of agricultural policy, DEFRA have published new guidance attempting to provide some clarity for the post-BREXIT world. There are no new policies revealed, but the guidance aims to bring together already released information in one single document.

The uncertainty is plain to see as DEFRA comments that the guidance will be ‘updated as needed’ and that they are still ‘preparing for every eventuality’. Indeed, since the guidance was released a few weeks ago, we already know that the long-stalled Agriculture Bill (upon which much of this guidance is based) failed to make progress before the recent closing of parliament. It will now need to be reintroduced in the next session. This makes it even more likely that the Bill will fail to be confirmed in time for the ‘agricultural transition’ period, which is due to start in 2021.

Nevertheless, we can only plan with the information available and the guidance aims to give information that farmers and those in the farming industry might need, so they can prepare. These changes include phasing out direct payments and delinking them from farming the land, changing rules and regulations and the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs).

The ‘transition period’ is perhaps the most interesting section as it explains the plan for all direct subsidy payments to be phased out from 2021 to 2027. During this time, a new system of rural development and environmental funding will be phased in.

The following is our summary of the guidance:

Direct Payments
Direct payments will be phased out in England from 2021 to 2027. In the first-year the reduction % will be as shown below.

Direct payment band*Maximum reduction
Up to £30,0005%
£30,000 – £50,00010%
£50,000-£150,00020%
£150,000 or more25%

*For example, for a claim worth £40,000, they will apply a reduction of up to 5% to the first £30,000 and up to a 10% reduction to the next £10,000

The reduction % for later years is yet to be decided.

They plan to ‘delink’ Direct Payments. This means the land does not have to be farmed to get these payments so this could help people retire, allow people to invest in improving productivity or diversify their businesses to help provide more opportunities within farming.

A consultation will be run with farmers to explore the idea of a one-off lump sum in place of any further direct payments.

Regulation

Regardless of when and how we leave the EU, they want to change to a more partnership-based approach in designing a future regulatory system. They want to balance maintaining their ‘robust regulatory requirements’ with better communication and making it a ‘less burdensome experience’ for the people being regulated.

Rural Development Program

The current government has committed to fund all Rural Development Program projects commencing before the end of 2020. These projects will run for the lifetime of their agreement.

When transitioning from countryside stewardship schemes to the new Environmental Land Management schemes, they will run both schemes together for a short period of time to enable people time to plan and prepare for the future, no one in a countryside stewardship scheme will be unfairly disadvantaged during this transition

They want to help provide ‘Transparency in the supply chain’ by making it easy for farmers and producers to access data. This will help them to make more informed decisions and be confident they are receiving fair treatment in business dealings

They are looking at ways to improve people’s knowledge of tree and plant health to help protect them against outbreaks of disease and reviewing the current grants designed to protect trees from pests and diseases as well as linking people together to help monitor local tree health.

They want to help farmers to take co-ordinated action to help prevent endemic diseases and to protect the health of livestock and they are also working with farmers and vets to help develop new approaches to prevent this.

Funding and financial support

Environmental land management (ELM)

They plan to launch ELM in 2024 and this will involve no subsidies, people will be paid with public money in return for providing environmental benefits.

Animal Welfare

They want to improve our world-leading animal welfare standards. They are exploring ideas such as one of payments to help farmers invest in equipment, infrastructure, technology, training or innovation to help move the welfare standards above the baseline.

They are exploring a ‘Payment by results’ scheme and also ensuring consumers have a clear understanding of animal welfare standards and can identify this on products easily.

Investment support

They want to help support farmers by offering financial assistance to invest in improving their productivity and environmental sustainability during the agricultural transition period.

Research and Development (R&D)

They are planning an innovation R&D package which will enable farmers to work with research organisation and carry out research projects.

Advice and information

You can find out more at GOV.UK and search ‘future farming policy statement’.

If you would like any advice on the matter above, please do not hesitate to get in touch – 01684 325215 / 07814 033449 office@cpwdaniell.co.uk