Farming News - Charity warns PM of impending car crash for up to 14,000 farms with Defra’s Path to Sustainable Farming

Charity warns PM of impending car crash for up to 14,000 farms with Defra’s Path to Sustainable Farming

02 Dec 2020
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

The Foundation for Common Land has written to the Prime Minister to warn him that the ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’ today released by Defra puts 14,000 farms in the Uplands and on Commons at risk and also threatens the environmental outcomes of the land they steward.

Foundation attends Public Inquiry to hear MOD's attempt to deregister Hilton, Murton, Burton and Warcop Fells

Defra’s Roadmap sets out that the basic payment scheme (BPS) income will be halved by 2024 and gone by 2028. What the Roadmap fails to provide is any figures on the value of the future environmental land management schemes. After four years planning and using the phrase ‘public money for public goods’, this is more than disappointing, it leaves farm businesses not knowing which fork on the path to take and they will have to make financial plans in a vacuum.

We have a fantastic opportunity to reshape English agriculture to better address the climate emergency and biodiversity crises and care for our much valued landscapes for the nation’s health and well-being. Why risk a massive own goal on something so critical to our nation’s health and well being as the English Countryside.”

Julia Aglionby, Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land explained, “Our two major concerns are:

  1. The government is seeking carbon storage, biodiversity and natural flood management on the cheap. Defra confirmed last week that until further notice payments will be based on income of foregone approach instead of a natural capital approach for payments.

  2. The government has not provided an impact analysis of how their Roadmap proposals will affect the viability of farms currently heavily dependent on BPS. Our modelling is not pretty; the family farm is at risk, including activities such as pastoral commoning.

How can farmers restructure to deliver for nature and the climate without any details? What does ‘public money for public goods’ actually mean? Defra’s Path to Sustainable Farming is rather like a road atlas that only shows the motorways. We need a much more granular scale plan.”

The farmers who look after our most precious and sensitive landscapes risk being first against the wall in this restructuring of British agriculture as Defra data shows that for Upland Farms BPS income is 104% of Farm Business Income.

The Foundation for Common land agrees with the government’s direction of travel that basic payment is phased out and environmental land management replaces it but where we differ is the how.

We ask the Government to address our concerns as a matter of urgency.

The letter to the Prime Minister can be downloaded here