Big changes to the way that farmers and landowners are awarded funding took effect from 1 January 2021 – but the full picture is still to emerge.
Agricultural lawyer Alexandra Phillips is urging landowners to make sure they watch closely as the new Agriculture Act takes shape, starting with the end of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
Ms Phillips, a senior associate at Midlands law firm mfg Solicitors, said it was still not clear what opportunities and schemes would replace that support, which has been so important to so many businesses in the farming industry.
The BPS is being phased out over the next seven years during the agricultural transition period, starting with the UK leaving the EU Common Agricultural Policy as part of Brexit.
The new Act will instead provide financial support to reward farmers and land managers for good work to improve air, water and soil quality, flood management efforts and the protection of wildlife, but the form that this will take has not yet been set in stone.
Ms Phillips said: “The Government has been very up front about scaling back BPS, with the funding due to be halved by 2024, but frustratingly it isn’t clear what’s going to happen in the final three years after that.
“We know the government is working with the CLA and other bodies to develop new schemes to replace it, along with the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme which is currently being trialled for roll out in 2024 and the Sustainable Farming Incentive, the core elements of which are due to be introduced from 2022.
“The aim is to move away from what the government has said is an overly bureaucratic policy and towards maximising the land we have to produce high quality, sustainable food with a focus on environmental measures and the provision of “public goods”.
“These changes took effect from the start of the year, but it is a moveable feast and therefore everyone in farming or with rural land needs to watch closely how it develops and see how it affects them, because the final shape of the replacement for BPS still needs to be decided.”