The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers has called on Defra to set out clear paths and timelines for phasing out Basic Payment and introducing the new Environmental Land Management schemes after Brexit.
In its response to the Government’s consultation on the Health and Harmony strategy, the CAAV said it was vital that farmers have time to plan and adapt to the biggest change the industry has seen since the end of the Second World War.
“We are at a moment that this country has not had in 70 years, when we can determine policies that will support and enhance agriculture’s role as a creator of value for the economy and society,” said Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV. “Confirmation this year of the direction of policy and the paths and timeline for the transition of payments will give farmers a framework in which to make their decisions.”
The changes facing the sector do not just include the phasing out of BPS and the shift to payments for environmental management. To create a viable vision will require more far reaching changes, said Mr Moody. “These range from taxation and tenancy law to research and knowledge exchange, stimulating the people, skills and investments needed to deliver our goals so that we have a competitive and environmentally successful farming sector. Such a positive framework needs to be put in place as early possible to facilitate future success.”
Defra needs to take a long view of what policy should look like, and effectively manage the transition to help farming businesses adapt and deliver. “The productivity challenge and the changes needed to meet it will not be adequately answered by efforts over simply the first couple of years.”
The shift from direct payments to largely environmental payments will see a very substantial initial loss in margin for farms before consequent market adjustments, he added. “The move away from Basic Payment needs to be a steady process for all claimants, so the consequential changes in input costs and structures are fully delivered. There is no basis for insulating smaller claimants, leaving them open to later shock while not encouraging new opportunities.”
Any new schemes should be of sufficient scale, with legislation in place to allow flexibility in land occupation and use, to enable business change, explained Mr Moody. And the administration and IT systems must be significantly improved. “As we embark on the design and implementation of post-Brexit policies, a completely new start needs to be made to ensure competent, practical and well-designed systems to deliver them. Incompetence in delivery will prejudice the intended goals.”