West Country farmers and landowners are worried that the current level of cashflow coming from the Basic Payment Scheme will not be maintained after 2020.
They welcomed the announcement by Philip Hammond, the new Chancellor, that funding under the Common Agricultural Policy will stay - at least in the short term.
This appears to mean that the current level of payments being made under the BPS will be maintained until 2020, which coincides with the lifetime of this EU scheme. What is not clear is whether the domestic rules relating to this scheme will change following our departure from the EU.
Mr Hammond also confirmed that any structural and investment projects signed off before the Autumn Statement at the end of November, “even when these projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU”, will continue to be funded. This should include all projects paid through the Rural Development Programme for England such as agri-environment schemes.
Again this is good news for farmers and landowners committed to long term agreements, many of which still have up to ten years to run. But what will replace these schemes? We need urgent clarity on the future of agri-environment schemes beyond November.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Hammond’s announcement was welcomed by leaders of farming and countryside organisations as good news for the short term.
A National Farmers Union statement said: “This should mean that farmers can count on receiving the Basic Payment Scheme through to 2020, and that agri-environment schemes already in place are guaranteed through to their conclusion,” while NFU president Meurig Raymond added: “I hope that this short-term certainty will help to deliver longer-term confidence. This is exactly what farm businesses need now.”
Similarly Ross Murray of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) explained: “This will provide a significant degree of reassurance to farmers and other landowners across the country.
“We have been clear, since the start of the EU referendum campaign, that this is the first decision ministers had to make to reassure rural businesses in the event of a Brexit vote. It is therefore a strong signal that will give confidence to businesses considering their future in a difficult agricultural market.”
So, in the short term, this provides farmers and landowners some degree of certainty and gives government breathing space to develop UK agricultural policies which will be fit for purpose.
But it is a pity the government did not start planning for a post-Brexit vote until after the referendum.
James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells
T: 01749 683381