It was a pleasure to join my first virtual NFU Live session with Janet Hughes, Defra Programme Director for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme and Kevin Pearce, our Director of Membership and Regions.
What I took away from the session was firstly the enduring level of interest in the world beyond BPS and the flow of questions that generates. This is not an easy nor static position to get our heads around but is far too important to overlook.
Same destination, different route
It is also clear to me that after years of designing ELMS we have reached the critical point of delivery and 2023 will be a crucial year for the future of the schemes.
The event turned out to be well timed following the political turbulence of recent months. This has not helped the critical decision making needed to keep the likes of the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) on track and understand more of the tier that sits above it, which was going to be Local Nature Recovery, but now is going to be developed through from the Countryside Stewardship scheme.
It’s the same destination, but a different route to get there.
The key to this is ensuring that farmers understand the development and feel it is delivering what they need and critically can be accessible to all, irrespective of what schemes they may or may not be in at this time.
“It seems that the log jam of political decision making is finally being lifted and all eyes now are on what seems to be a series of announcements in January."
NFU-Vice President, David Exwood
Announcement expected in January
It has been a frustrating time trying to get certainty from Defra on the scope of the offer and the all-important financial elements in place. It seems that the log jam of political decision making is finally being lifted and all eyes now are on what seems to be a series of announcements in January.
We really hope for ELM schemes that we see as much detail as possible in the coming weeks and that 2023 is truly the year of delivering the policies.
We will hold Defra to account on ensuring that the schemes remain simple to operate on farm.
It was encouraging to hear that Defra have a plan and much is promised in the new year. Communication of the detail to members is so critical, this has to be done by mail shotting every farmer in the country.
This is vital given the questions raised from our uplands and tenant members, who like me have ongoing concerns over the support they can access under the new schemes to allow farming going hand in hand with environment stewardship of the land, which many are already doing.
Transition topping the list
“Defra must help to avoid cliff edges in support that some could face, which I believe was never the vision when it came to the seven-year transition away from direct payments."
NFU Vice-President, David Exwood
A critical concern of mine is the transition from BPS to the new delinked payment, with 2023 being the last year BPS will operate.
The first question of the session encapsulated well the concerns from those where business change and development since 2020 could be severely derailed by this switch from BPS.
Defra must help to avoid cliff edges in support that some could face, which I believe was never the vision when it came to the seven-year transition away from direct payments.
The rolling out of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway annual vet visits is mooted to be from January 2023. Like SFI, it is being rolled out in a managed way. I would encourage all livestock farmers to have a look at this development as well as the grants that are also in the pipeline.
Finally, I would like to thank NFU members and staff for their countless hours of time put into developing the new schemes over 2022, I do believe that work has made a difference and we will collectively work with Defra to develop the offer into 2023.