Cuts in the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England start in 2021 and, while for most, the cuts in the first year are relatively small, the cuts will increase by 15% per year for all BPS recipients, with a minimum 50% cut in payments by 2024. BPS payments will cease completely after 2027. Farming businesses need to start making plans now for how they are going to manage this change. There is no blueprint for change management but understanding current business performance and the impact of cuts in BPS is a good starting point. There will be future opportunities in the market and through new public goods schemes (Environmental Land Management), but the full launch of these is still some way off.
Following a successful initial phase, Defra has recently launched the interim phase of the Future Farming Resilience Fund (FFRF). Under the FFRF interim phase, Defra has awarded a little over £10 million to 19 organisations, such as AHDB, The Prince’s Countryside Fund, regional land agents and farm business consultants. These organisations will provide free support and advice to farmers and land managers. The aim is to build understanding of the impact of reduced BPS payments on businesses, advise how business plans need to adapt and demonstrate how to monitor business performance going forwards.
What you need to know
- All current BPS recipients are eligible to apply for support.
- Defra has shared a list of the 19 providers involved on gov.uk, with details of sectors and regions covered, along with contact details.
- The providers are offering a range of services, including group discussion, online webinars and skills workshops. Many are also offering a bespoke farm business analysis with recommendations for improvements.
- The interim phase will be available from 18 August 2021 and will run to 1 March 2022. Those interested should contact the provider as soon as possible. Many of the organisations have reported significant interest since their details were published on 13 July.
- The third and final phase of the FFRF will launch in May/June 2022.
This is an important programme from Defra and something that the CLA has been arguing for. Access to professional advice and information is key to being ready for the changes and finding the right way to adapt. The providers are offering a wide range of services, with the offer of tailored farm business reports being a particularly helpful resource. The reports will include farm benchmarking, an analysis of business financial performance and a business action plan. As part of their offer, some providers will identify future income streams, provide an appraisal of environmental opportunities and undertake environmental and carbon audits.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of farming, these services should help farmers and landowners navigate the early stages of the agricultural transition and identify the need for more fundamental business changes.