The NFU has urged DEFRA to postpone BPS reductions in 2022 and 2023.
Its president, Minette Batters, believes implementing a short delay now to BPS reductions will allow government the time it needs to deliver “durable” schemes and policies.
She has said she “really fears” for the future success of farming in the UK if the government presses ahead with its current timetable to transition to its new agriculture policy schemes.
Batters said the UK only has one chance to get this agriculture transition right, as farming is a long-term business.
The farm group desires to work in partnership with government and “stands ready” to work with it on developing and delivering new schemes.
The NFU has requested a thorough review to ensure the new policies and schemes are ready with “clear” incentives and objectives.
Its call comes as farmers continue to deal with multiple challenges, causing severe disruptions to essential food-producing businesses.
The farm leader stressed that farmers face these challenges before phasing out of direct payments and replacing those with other schemes.
DEFRA does not expect these schemes to be fully operational until 2024.
The farm leader said the “perfect storm” is causing “huge” challenges to people trying to run effective farm businesses.
She listed these as:
- A shortage of workers bringing to a halt the UK’s just-in-time supply chains in some places;
- Rising inflation adding increased costs to farms;
- Disrupted trade flows;
- A “fierce” retail price war.
The National Audit Office reported that DEFRA had not yet published detailed objectives or ensured adequate incentive for farmers’ participation in the new environmental land management scheme, expected to replace BPS.
Batters said this would result in a lack of uptake and the critical mass needed to achieve success for the government’s own environmental ambitions.
She believes a review would provide ministers with more time to develop replacement schemes. She said it would also allow the sector to move forward from the multiple issues it faces.
“This change in agricultural policy represents the biggest transformation for farmers in generations.”
“The NFU and its members want – and need – this transition to be a success. We have set out our path for achieving net-zero by 2040.”
“We to ensure we can continue to produce climate-friendly food to feed the nation, with our current self-sufficiency levels at 60%.”
She said it is crucial they give farmers and growers the confidence to:
- Firstly, to invest;
- Provide fairer market returns;
- Thirdly, reward environmental delivery;
- Also, realise a shared ambition of producing climate-friendly food for markets at home and abroad.
“Finally, let’s not forget, we are also reliant on these new schemes to support farming on its net-zero journey.”
“To be clear, we are not asking for the planned cut in direct payments in 2021 to be postponed.”
“DEFRA will need to make some cuts to free up funding for the development and trialling of the new schemes while using the time to secure buy-in from all farmers.”
“If these schemes are to be fit for purpose, we will need to see thousands of farmers signing up instead of the 100s we have today,” she concluded.
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