Is this the path to sustainable farming?
On Monday, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reveals their ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’, setting out the planned changes to agricultural policy in England from 1st January 2021 and what it will mean for farmers and land managers.
Certain aspects of the proposal have been widely reported but here Sarah Attwood, part of Business Development at Acres in the South of England, gives her perspective of what we now know.
“The Path to Sustainable Farming document gives us clear detail on how and when the cuts will be made to direct payments. However, it does not give us much detail on the quantities or practicalities of payments that will replace them at a business level.
It clarifies that the total government spending into UK Farming in this parliament will be equal to the total amount that has historically been received annually from the European Union. Critically this will not be as a direct subsidy but diverted into environmental subsidies and grant funding; it offered some signposts as to how the funds might be accessed. This appears to offer opportunities for businesses to access new technology, precision farming practices and key infrastructure, along with funding for environmental objectives.
Will grant funding be match funding for capital investment? This is looking likely. If this is the case, entrepreneurial farmers could have the opportunity to really elevate their businesses.
The document states that investment will fall into the following three categories:
- Reward those who manage their land sustainably
- Reward those who put schemes into place to promote wildlife
- Reward those who put schemes in place to promote landscape and ecosystem recovery
As direct subsidies fall away from the 2021 claim year, farmers will really have to focus on what each parcel of their farm is suited for and how it can pay its way.
Marginal land ought to fit into categories 2 and 3 above, whilst the farmer should focus upon what technology they could put in place to promote efficiencies on their most productive land to take advantage of potential grants for investment here (category 1).
The landscape of UK Farming is about to change very quickly, and now is the time to prepare your business, if you have not already done so.”