As the UK leaves the EU on 1 January 2021 the agricultural transition period will start for farming businesses. Between 2021 and 2027 the current farming subsidy regime known as the 'Basic Payment Scheme' (BPS) will gradually reduce and then stop. The UK government has this week announced its plans to support agriculture in different ways.
The government has said that famers will be paid to improve the environment, animal health and welfare, and reduce carbon emissions. There will be three levels of support aimed at paying for sustainable farming practices, creating habitats for nature recovery and making landscape-scale change such as establishing new woodland and other ecosystem services. Some options will be open to all farmers and land managers, while others will be more targeted at a smaller number of large projects. There will also be grants aimed at supporting farmers to reduce their costs and improve their profitability, to help those who want to retire or leave the industry, and to create new opportunities and support for new entrants coming into the industry.
In the meantime, BPS payments will be cut at differing levels in 2021, with higher cuts for the recipients of higher amounts, followed by flat rate cuts of 15% over the years 2022-2024. Meanwhile, Countryside Stewardship applications will remain open until 2023 and the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI 2022) will be gradually introduced from 2022 as part of the process of introducing the wider Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM). These payments will be accessible to all BPS applicants who can deliver the required actions. SFI 2022 will be based around a number of packages aimed at delivering sustainable farm husbandry (eg. soil, hedge and farm woodland management).
The full extent of ELM is still under development, however, and it will not be fully available until 2024. ELM will ultimately consist of three components: the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery.
There are a number of other schemes and projects that will be phased in between 2021 and 2024 but much of the detail of ELM is still to be provided, which does not help farming businesses plan for the future. Further detail will be welcome.
The agricultural transition plan sets out the changes we are going to make to agricultural policy in England from 1 January 2021. It also covers what these changes will mean for farmers and land managers.