In Focus: Future Farming Resilience Fund

At a pivotal moment in the agricultural transition in England, CLA Senior Land Use Policy Advisor Cameron Hughes reveals how the Future Farming Resilience Fund can help landowners
Combine harvester working the field

Most farmers and land managers in England will have realised that farming policy is undergoing its most significant changes in a generation. Cuts in the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) have continued each year since 2021 and the payments will finally stop in 2027. In the meantime, a wide range of new schemes have been introduced to support various public goods, such as cleaner air, water and enhanced biodiversity, along with other schemes to improve farming productivity.

At this stage in the agricultural transition, we are at point of maximum complexity, as old ‘legacy’ schemes are gradually phased out, whilst multiple new schemes are brought online. This makes for a stressful time for many farming businesses as they seek to identify which scheme or combination of schemes could be beneficial for their businesses.

What is the Future Farming Resilience Fund?

Thankfully, in recognition of these fundamental policy changes and scheme complexity, Defra has introduced the Future Farming Resilience Fund (FFRF). This is a government-funded scheme which provides free business advice for farmers and land managers in receipt of BPS and/or who participate in Higher Level Stewardship schemes. First introduced in 2022 and now in its final round with £32 million allocated, the FFRF offers access to professional business advice from a range of 17 different organisations. These organisations aim to build an understanding of how reduced BPS payments will impact each business, advise how business plans need to adapt and will demonstrate how businesses can monitor their performance going forward.

Defra has contracted with each of the 17 providers, who have each pledged to provide advice to a set number of businesses. The scheme operates on a first come, first served basis, with some providers close to reaching their target number of businesses. Farmers and land managers are free to review the list of organisations and select the most appropriate one. Some advisers have regional or sectoral specialisms, others offer broad support across all business types. Each provider has their own offering, but generally the advisory services include:

  • A 1-2-1 farm visit with an adviser, a business overview and benchmarking
  • Production of a business action plan
  • Signposting to relevant grant schemes
  • Access to webinars and workshops
  • Access to learning forums/events with other farmers

Some providers also offer a carbon audit or greenhouse gas baselining as part of their offer.

One point to note is that under this final round, once a provider has been selected, and advisory services have been obtained, it is not possible to switch to another provider or seek support from a second provider. Advice obtained from a previous round of the scheme does not rule out participation in this final round.

Future Farming Resilience Fund Providers

At the time of writing the scheme had provided direct 1-2-1 support to over 12,000 businesses, with Defra’s overall goal to have reached 32,000 businesses via all forms of support provided by the programme by March 2025. Feedback on the scheme has been positive, with Ipsos Mori producing a positive report on the previous phase of the scheme.

CLA analysis

The CLA has been a longstanding supporter of the scheme. At this time of significant policy change, combined with the historic reliance on BPS for large parts of the industry, the case for a free advisory service is strong. Remember, this is professional advice which would otherwise have to be paid for out of the farmer’s own pocket. Indeed, many farming businesses routinely engage the services of professional advisers to assist with their business planning. Also, there is no compulsion for farmers to act on the advice they have been given, but simply having another pair of experienced eyes review the business can bring in new ideas and fresh perspective.

Access to professional advice and information can be key in improving business resilience and identifying ways to adapt to future changes. 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, many 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. Given the scheme is due to expire in March 2025, with no current plans to extend the support, the CLA will continue to encourage members to take part in the scheme.

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Key contact:

Cameron Hughes
Cameron Hughes Senior Land Use Policy Adviser, London