Calls for £200m-a-year fund to help farmers through Brexit

The investment package would encourage farmers' productivity during the seven-year industry transition period
The investment package would encourage farmers' productivity during the seven-year industry transition period

Calls have been made for an annual £200m-a-year productivity fund to last seven years to help farmers prepare for the challenges of the upcoming transition period.

As stated in the agriculture bill, farmers in England and Wales will see their direct payments phased out over seven years post-Brexit as part of the industry's transition period.

But new research released today highlights that farmers face a 'considerable risk' during this period, compounded further by post-Brexit uncertainty.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which proposes the overall £1.4bn fund, suggests it should commence from 2021.

It said this would 'minimise the lag' between investment and impact, and would continue throughout the seven year transition period.

The £200m-a-year package would be made up of an investment fund of £140m, to accelerate adoption of best practice and new technology, buildings, equipment and infrastructure.

All of this would help farmers deliver productivity growth, resilience and environmental benefits, the CLA said.

The fund would include an advice fund of £30m to stimulate demand for professional business advice, change facilitation, managed restructuring and feasibility reviews.

Programmes that enable initial business advice to open up funding for targeted advice would help ensure good value for money, the CLA said, and would include industry contributions from farmers.

Lastly, the AHDB and the supply chain could deliver £80m investment in total, the group added.

In parallel to the package, the CLA calls for increased funding for current agri-environmental schemes to encourage uptake, a gradual introduction of a 'well-designed' ELMS containing competitive payment rates, along with a programme rewarding those who go beyond legal requirements on animal health and welfare.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said the scale of the changes expected of farmers in the coming years 'should not be underestimated'.

“Some will be at considerable risk as we switch between payment systems,” he said.

“The £200m-a-year fund supporting the required investments will assist the sector in responding to the challenges of continuing to feed the nation with a sustainable quality food supply, whilst in parallel delivering public good.”

The policy briefing, 'Ensuring the agricultural transition delivers for farming, forestry and the environment', was released on Friday 25 October.