Farming News - DEFRA Policy Update is a Missed Opportunity

DEFRA Policy Update is a Missed Opportunity

07 Jul 2021
Frontdesk / Finance

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has conveyed its dismay at the Government’s latest policy announcement at the end of June updating the post Brexit Agricultural Transition Plan (ATP). The announcement from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) focussed on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) offering for 2022 and the payment principles for the wider Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

Commenting on the latest announcement, Farm Policy Adviser, Lynette Steel, said “It’s frustrating that after seven months since the first version of the ATP, last week’s announcement remains at best aspirational and at worst a mishmash of missed opportunities. It lacks any detail for how access to schemes can be assured for tenant farmers and others who do not own the land they farm, such as on Commons”.

“It is disappointing to see that DEFRA has scaled back its target of encouraging almost 100% of farmers to be involved in ELMS framework at some level, to a new level of just 70%. The cynic might say that this is to give DEFRA the breathing space it needs not to provide solutions for the tenanted sector of agriculture, which makes up one third of the farmed area of England,” said Lynette.

“It is of huge concern that the update sets out a complex patchwork of small schemes. These will have limited impact and there seems to be little which stitches them together to form a coherent policy. As farm businesses operate to the timetable of the seasons and the needs of the marketplace, farmers cannot continue to delay business planning due to policy makers’ indecisions,” said Lynette.

“Understandably, the farming community is beginning to lose patience with the approach DEFRA is taking. Having been enthusiastic advocates of finding a new basis for the development of policy for farming and the farmed environment, many have been taking part in trials, stakeholder forums, responding to consultation documents and expressing interest in taking part in the pilot version of the new SFI. However, the language contained within the updated ATP still is couched very much in terms of hopes, dreams and plans, when we should be at the stage of decisions, reality and practical implementation,” said Lynette.

The TFA will continue to expend its time, energy and resource engaging with DEFRA, in the hope that a much better framework for future policy can be delivered. However, as we are well into the first year of the seven-year transition, which will see the complete removal of the Basic Payment Scheme, the TFA is advising its members to plan on the basis that the new schemes coming forward may not work for their business needs.

“The TFA believes that the farm rental market will need to adjust as a reflection of this policy update. Part of that adjustment is the responsibility of existing and new tenant farmers in tendering for land and agreeing levels of rent at review. All strands of revenue and cost will need to be carefully scrutinised as we go through this period of great change".