Katie Hilton, Associate, Cheffins comments:

 “Legislation released today will set out the future of farming for generations to come and whilst there are elements of the new Bill which will be supported by many, parts of the new schemes leave much to be desired. Whilst sustainability and protection of the environment is essential, farmers still need to have workable parameters to be able to meet the food production levels needed for a growing population. Whilst delivering ‘public goods’ is a popular part of the new bill, food production needs to remain as one of the cornerstones of the farming industry. Providing support until 2027 is a longer timeframe than many feared, however there will be questions raised about what will happen following this date. Future-proofing has never been more important for the sector as both large-scale and smaller farmers for generations to come need reassurance that the industry will remain profitable following the cut-off date.

Clearly the Rural Payments Agency has been unfit for purpose for many years so any improvement on the bureaucratic and lengthy process for farmers to claim subsidies will be welcomed, however these  need to be followed with a commitment to ensure a pragmatic and fair deal for agriculture. The Government has at last recognised the essential role played by farmers and land managers in reducing flood risks, improving air and water quality and access to the countryside and hopefully this should help to provide the stimulus that the industry needs to get back into delivering valuable outcomes for our farmland wildlife.

De-linking payments from the requirement to farm the land will effectively give elderly farmers a golden handshake with the ability to redirect these payments straight into options for retirement which will give opportunities for new entrants into the sector. Succession-proofing farms and delayed retirements has long been an issue and the previous method of awarding subsidies has frustrated the next generation of young farmers so the hope will be that these changes should reenergise the next swathe of entrants into the industry.

For East Anglia in particular, the high productivity levels across the region ought to help farmers and land managers locally to gain in a number of ways from the Bill. Agri-tech developments and R&D continue to feature highly through the thread of Mr Gove’s vision for UK agriculture and this is certainly an exciting area for the Eastern region in particular, with fast-paced research and innovation already making headway to improve farm performance. However, the UK’s biggest landowners, many of which are in our region, will see the payments they receive fall sharply from 2021. This money will be redirected into new schemes, R&D and support for smaller farms, and it is welcomed that this change will be phased in through small increments, enabling businesses to diversify and restructure.

We would advise farmers to make the most of the new funding opportunities within the environmental land management contracts and to ensure that they prepare over the next nine years to 2027. Ministers have refused to specify how much money farmers will receive under the new Bill, so we would also recommend that any diversification projects are prioritised and succession-proofing is considered well ahead of time.”

For further information please contact Katie Hilton, 01223 271959.