Brexit has ensured that there will be very substantial changes to farming support, which has been based on the European Common Agricultural Policy for the past 40 or more years. Government policy is to replace direct support with payment for public goods supplied by farmers and for their contribution to clean air and water, healthy soils and carbon reduction.
Defra has announced the winding down of the Basic Payment Scheme by 2027; this has been a major form of financial support for all farms and in many cases the difference between profit and loss. Despite this and the announced reductions, less than half the farms surveyed have plans in response to these changes.
In contrast, Defra have proposed introducing an Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) that will partially replace the Basic Payment; while details are yet to be announced, some 60% of those surveyed expect to take part.
Of the strategies that farmers have already adopted or plan to do so in response to these changes in national policies, the most popular by far has been to contract out some or all farm activities. A further substantial number plan to collaborate with others, or increase their farm area by either buying or renting more land. A minority plan to sell or rent land and the emphasis is very much on expansion rather than contraction.
The survey revealed that a wide and imaginative amount of farm diversification has already taken place, with solar energy being the most popular – nearly 40% of farms reporting having installations.
Overall, this survey shows an active, confident farming industry starting to prepare for the future, determined to thrive and adapt to the changes in support that is coming its way.
Richard Rampton, Emma Powlett