While some farmers in Cumbria are about to be formally consulted on plans to upgrade the A66, further south in Cheshire farmers are dealing with the potential impact that HS2 could have on their farms.
The effect this has on the business is not just limited to land, which may be lost to road or railway, but increasingly public building projects are looking for land as part of their environmental mitigation obligations, which look to compensate for the environmental impact of the work.
There are also significant impacts while the work is underway, not least upon land which may be lost temporarily while the work is being done. Good examples of this are machinery storage or the disruption to the farming operation.
It is vitally important that farmers engage with the operators when they consult on these schemes. This way, farmers are able to spell out in detail the consequences building plans have on the farm business. It also gives farmers the opportunity to make impact reducing suggestions.
In many circumstances one to one appointments are offered and NFU members should take advantage of these. The NFU is also on hand to offer assistance and organise meetings prior to the consultation in order to keep members up to speed and explain how the consultation process works.
During the last month I have met a lot of members who have had queries regarding their BPS applications.
These conversations have all got round to what happens next and how long BPS can be claimed.
To say the situation is uncertain and fluid is an understatement, but at present the plan is for a BPS claim to be made in 2020 and then, from 2021, the scheme to be phased out. And it is there that the clarity ends. Between 2021 and 2025 they intend to scale up the new ELMS scheme which will reward farmers for delivering public goods, by which they mean things that farmers deliver for which there is no market but which are of benefit to the public.
These include biodiversity, access, flood mitigation and increasing production efficiency. However, the detail and, more importantly, the value of these activities are as yet unknown so Defra is running numerous trial and tests of the new scheme across the country to find out the best way to operate them.
In summary, we do know that BPS will end and a new scheme will come in, but what farmers will be required to do and how lucrative it will be are still unknown. So all farmers can do at this moment is understand the importance of BPS to their business, plan for this reducing down to nothing and keep up to speed with the development of the new scheme.