The CLA hosted a series of events in our region recently to help land managers across the region fully understand the latest agricultural policy announcements and learn more about what can be expected in the coming months.
We are now well into the agricultural transition in England, with a second round of BPS cuts in 2022, and further cuts due in 2023. By 2024, BPS recipients will have lost at least half of their BPS payments, ahead of the final year of payments in 2027.
The cuts in BPS are being redirected into new schemes with various focuses which are being rolled out on a frequent basis. Keeping up to date with the opportunities can be a challenge, but it is important for those who manage land to remain alert to what is available, so they can choose what is right for them.
These two-hour events, which were supported by Ceres Rural and the Forestry Commission, included an update on the latest policy developments along with presentations from farm resilience consultants offering free support and advice to farmers in England. There were also opportunities to raise specific questions with CLA experts, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Rural Payments Agency in breakout sessions.
It has been a busy time for Defra announcements. To accompany plans for a new round of productivity grants, the government has also revealed new competitions for research and innovation, the opening of the Annual Health and Welfare Review, and plans for support for small abattoirs.
These follow the announcements made in January, which set out details for new Sustainable Farming Incentive standards and payment rates, plans for developing Countryside Stewardship, a new round of the Landscape Recovery scheme and additional funding for the Farming in Protected Landscape scheme.
This is all good news. The picture of future government support is gradually taking shape and the CLA will keep lobbying to ensure the schemes are improved and are attractive enough for applicants. There is enough information now to consider the options ready for application for the Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes when they open.
The most recent announcement on productivity and slurry grants provides some short-term clarity on plans for 2023, and the first steps for the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. The recent publication of new guidance for land managers on Biodiversity Net Gain will also provide welcome clarity on how to deliver biodiversity units for the private sector market.
The new grant announcements are welcome news for the industry, particularly those who have plans for new equipment. There is a total of £168m across a range of grants and competitions for research and innovation.
Meanwhile, Defra has revealed that the agricultural scheme within protected areas will be extended until March 2025 and additional grants will be provided for selected National Parks. This scheme has been in operation since 2021 and news of its extension will provide some reassurance for our members who farm within protected landscapes.
In addition to this announcement, the government has revealed that ten of England’s national parks are set to benefit from extra funding to support services such as visitor centres and park rangers. The new funds amount to £4.4m and are said to be shared evenly across National Parks, including the Broads.
It is at times like this that the work and support of the CLA is so crucial. It can feel overwhelming to understand what all the announcements can mean for your rural businesses and we are here to help you navigate your way through. You will find a dedicated page to the agricultural transition at cla.org.uk or members can call us and speak to our advisers.