Agricultural Transition

The latest column from CLA East Director Cath Crowther
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There are big changes ahead in agricultural policy and now is the time to start taking action, and plan for the future. That was one of the messages from a series of recent CLA events, including one in Diss, that provided clear advice and information on the agricultural transition, to help farmers and land managers respond to changes in agricultural, environmental and climate policy.

The sessions moved beyond just giving the latest information from Defra and presented scenarios and case studies to show how different farms might generate income in the future. They were an opportunity for farmers and land managers to learn what new income streams are available to farms now, so that planning can get underway for farming businesses.

Representatives from Defra, the Forestry Commission, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) were among those attending and topics discussed included the various productivity grant and advice schemes that are currently coming in, and information about environmental schemes.

Meanwhile the CLA and Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) have issued joint guidance designed to help their respective members in England navigate the agricultural transition away from the Common Agricultural Policy.

The advice aims to provide tenants and landowners with clarity on how to make the most of new public and private sector environmental schemes whether within existing agricultural tenancies or when considering new tenancies. The agriculture sector is facing the biggest set of changes to domestic policy in living memory, as subsidy schemes are phased out and replaced with new Environmental Land Management schemes. These will reward land managers for helping to mitigate climate change and enhance nature.

The CLA and TFA have long recognised that the transition towards these new schemes will be fraught with risk for all those involved in farming, and thus resolved to work together to ensure their members were supported through the process.

The core principles of the joint guidance are:

  • The person delivering the environmental goods or services, whether paid for by the private or public sector, should be entitled to receive payment, unless they are acting as a contractor or employee.
  • The transition from current to future environmental schemes should be managed so as to achieve the best outcomes for members and for the environment.
  • There must be clarity over who is entering into agreements or contracts to deliver environmental outcomes, to avoid the risk of inadvertent double funding or incompatible contracts.
  • Landlords and tenants can deliver more environmental outcomes and unlock additional marriage value from environmental investment by working together.

All sectors of the industry must be allowed to benefit from the new government schemes, and we are certain that proactive collaboration between landowner and tenant will always achieve the best outcome – for the individuals concerned, for the environment and for the wider population. The challenge facing farmers today should not be understated and we need to work together to navigate the extraordinary change taking place.

Across the country, landowners and tenants are already working together both to feed the nation and to maintain the environment. This guidance encourages both parties to build on those relationships, and to begin the conversation about how these new government schemes can work in practice.