Agricultural Transition Plan: Future Farm Resilience Fund explained

Farm business

Over the summer, the NFU policy team has continued its work for members on a range of new Defra schemes and initiatives. In the second of a two-part series, our farm business expert and senior adviser Richard Wordsworth explains our work on the Future Farm Resilience Fund.

Defra's Future Farm Resilience Fund was created to help farmers plan their way through the agricultural transition.

Don't miss out on vital free, confidential support

Nineteen providers across England have been awarded grants by Defra to fund this support programme. All the providers are detailed on our Find out about the support available under Defra's Future Farming Resilience Fund page This offer runs from August 2021 to March 2022.

Now is the time to engage with providers to ensure you do not miss out, as limited spaces are available.

The NFU is not a provider nor part of a group that is providing support under this scheme. Though we are supporting all successful bidders by promoting the FFRF programmes in England to members.

It is up to members which providers they use. We are working with Defra to help ensure that the scheme works for members and is promoted far and wide.

We are offering NFU members access to exclusive offers to support this, for example:

For more information on the NFU Professional services benefits including the work undertaken by our NFU Legal Assistance Scheme.

There are also services offered by NFU Energy.

Future regulation and enforcement

Currently Defra is focusing on its future approach for regulation and enforcement. This will include inspections in order to make regulation fairer, simpler and more effective.

Nutrient management and livestock traceability

Defra recently identified two areas to explore more with farmers, nutrient management and livestock traceability.

These areas have been recognised as being problematic as regulation can often be seen as unfair and enforcement disproportionate.

Or, it is seen as ineffective, by not addressing environmental harm or its causes.

Nutrient regulation

In terms of nutrient regulation Defra has been looking at this in a holistic way, including how the forthcoming Slurry Investment Scheme and nutrient management are part of the same challenge and should not be seen as separate issues and challenges.

We have worked with Defra to ensure there is a balance between the need to produce food domestically but also to recognise there will always be human impact on the environment however we work.

Farming businesses, need a sustainable and cost-effective way forward.

We have already submitted to Defra what any Slurry Investment Scheme that they might introduce should consider. Read NFU helps shape Slurry Investment Scheme for more information.

Livestock regulation

In respect to livestock regulation, Defra has also been mapping the end-to-end processes, interdependencies and looking at:

  • what farmers are doing
  • why they are doing it and
  • what can be done to make the farming and regulations work better together.

Defra has spoken to farmers to gain their experiences. Key for the NFU is that this feedback comes from a wide range of farms and enterprises.

What does a post-CAP world look like?

For the NFU, the key principle that has yet to be clarified is what the regulatory baseline will be post CAP.

Defra has previously said they are keen to clearly distinguish between such a baseline and what public money for public goods will pay for.

A key challenge for Defra is to more clearly separate a regulatory baseline from requirements of future schemes, transitioning from the current link, which is encapsulated in a cross-compliance system.

This change is critical after 2023 when BPS stops as the delivery model for direct payments and the associated cross-compliance mechanism disappears.

Defra appears to want to have some form of new mechanism in place to replace cross-compliance. For us at the NFU, this has to follow the principles of what is needed and not a continuum of the current enforcement and regulatory approaches.

Defra's change of approach

Encouragingly, Defra has already started to change its approach to cross-compliance.

Farmers should, this year, have started to see a more proportional approach to sanctions and greater emphasis on the ethos of the farmer being inspected and an acceptance that there will always be a minor element of non-compliance by even the most competent and compliant farmer.

The Agricultural Act and Financial Assistance Statutory Instrument that came into place recently, allows Defra to develop its regulatory and enforcement approaches for the new schemes coming in this year (2021), namely:

  • Environmental Land Management's Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot
  • Tree Health
  • Countryside Stewardship 2022 Agreements
  • Farming Investment Fund.

The NFU is in regular contact with Defra and its delivery bodies looking at both long- and short-term regulatory and enforcement issues. We need to ensure they are fit for purpose and that change for the better continues.

The key to success

The key to success is landing the policy changes that are desired, such as:

  • more proportional sanctions
  • risk basis for inspections
  • earned recognition
  • more support and guidance for farmers etc.

Communicating this with farmers and explaining what is happening and when, so that all parties understand the new way of working, is also fundamental.

Working with BEIS

In additionally to our work with Defra, we are submitting a response to a consultation from Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on future government regulatory framework to ensure the challenges of agricultural sector are not overlooked.

New Entrants Support Scheme: work in the pipeline

There is less detail available on what Defra’s final plans are for the New Entrants Support Scheme (NESS).

This scheme is about new entrants seeking to develop new land-based businesses where they find it difficult to access the land they need.

The aim is to create lasting opportunities for new entrants to access land and infrastructure. New entrants also need support to establish successful and innovative businesses working with council farms and other landowners.

Defra appear to be planning a three-stage approach to support this scheme, namely:

  • a pre-land phase - looking at help those wanting to enter a rural land based business via a business hub
  • a second phase - creating opportunities for taking on land
  • a third phase - supporting those wishing to move on via progress after a number of years.

Defra say applications will open in 2022 for this scheme.

We have worked through its Next Generation Forum and with the National Federation of Young Farmer Clubs to set out its vision and what this scheme should cover.

The NFU's main concern has been that this scheme is not be open to those already formally associated with land-based farming businesses (not a partner, director or someone who owns land, for example). The drive is for ‘new blood' and more diversity into the sector.

We will continue to push for more acceptance of support for those within the industry to benefit from this initiative, as well as those starting up for the first time.

A key area we want to see explored further is funding tailored to new entrants through schemes such as the Farming Investment Fund and possibilities of guaranteed loans through the British Business Bank.

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