Scheme design not Defra strong point: Thomas Binns

Thomas Binns
NFU uplands forum chairman

It is certainly not the farming year I expected.

The buoyant sheep trade of late has seen store, finished and breeding stock selling well, but new requirements to keep safe at auction marts are a stark reminder that Covid-19 continues to dominate our lives.

Farming in general has fared better than some sectors of the economy and dare I say the significance of home-produced food has had a fresh light shone upon it and those who produce it.Thomas Binns_59613

But the Brexit transition is a few months away and the political brinkmanship continues between the UK Government and the EU.

The Uplands Forum has been busy making a strong case to Government about the difficulties of the other transition in our lives: the change from CAP to a Domestic Agricultural Policy.

In 2021 BPS will begin its reducing programme and, while we still await the rate of its demise after 2021, by 2028 it will be gone.

The Upland Forum with its connection with the All-Party Parliament Group of MPs (APPG) for Hill Farming voiced early on the importance of the level of support BPS means to upland farming businesses.

We called for a delay in the winding down of BPS until it becomes how Defra and Government will respond to Brexit and trade.

The development of a new environmental land management scheme (ELMS) will not replace BPS but will be a completely new Defra scheme to eventually replace the current Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes.

Some of you may have been involved in the Test and Trials which have been set up by Defra to help inform the development of ELMS and a pilot scheme to be launched late 2021.

But it has been a real frustration that the progress and detail around ELMs is pitiful.

What is clear is that scheme design is not a strong point for Defra and a poorly designed, under-funded and heavily bureaucratic ELMs will not land well with farmers.

We have lobbied hard to make sure productive agriculture is a key principle part of the Domestic Agriculture policy.Thomas Binns maintain a dry stone wall in an uplands landscape_59353

How we farm sustainably and meet the Net Zero challenge will need to be encouraged and supported.

The uplands have a key role in food producing activities and presents huge opportunities with its iconic well-managed landscapes, ticking the ‘public goods’ boxes.

It should not be regarded as just a place to plant trees!

The North-West region is well represented on the Uplands Forum. It would be amiss of me not to take the opportunity to thank Richard Pedley for his support and commitment to the forum and hill farming in general – thank you.