Treasury must deliver for farming in Autumn Statement, NFU says

The NFU said the need for stability and certainty was fundamental for farmers to drive long-term business investment decisions
The NFU said the need for stability and certainty was fundamental for farmers to drive long-term business investment decisions

The NFU has written to the Chancellor ahead of the Autumn Statement calling for support to rebuild confidence and stability for British farmers.

Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement is due on Wednesday 22 November against the backdrop of a continuing trend of increasing input costs for agriculture.

In the letter, the NFU said the need for stability and certainty was “fundamental to enabling long-term business investment decisions”.

The union has outlined the 'pressure points' on farming businesses, including rising fertiliser and energy costs and cuts to direct support payments.

One key ask is for the Treasury to conduct a review into long-term energy contracts in the commercial sector and improved transparency, making it easier for businesses to select which provider/contracts suit their needs.

And the Treasury must also remove the uncertainty over the tax treatment of agricultural land entered into environmental schemes, the NFU said, especially the government’s own Environment Land Management schemes (ELMS).

Currently agricultural property relief (APR) is available on agricultural land whether used by the owner or a tenant.

Whilst many of the options available under ELMS in England would not result in land ceasing to be in agricultural use, the NFU said there was uncertainty around some options.

The union gathered views from its members and responded to the consultation on APR, stating that the government must remove this uncertainty or "risk undermining the confidence in and uptake of these schemes."

The NFU said its third key ask was for a Treasury led cross-government taskforce to ensure the regulation and oversight of environmental markets in the UK was fit for purpose.

In order to ensure UK farmers can tap into the potential of new environmental markets, the government "must devise effective governance mechanisms as soon as possible".

Looking ahead to the statement, NFU President Minette Batters said: "If we are to ensure a secure supply of sustainable, homegrown food now and in the future, what British farming needs more than anything is investment.

“With farm input costs through the roof, interest rates rising and at least a 50% reduction in the current direct payments in 2023, farmers are facing incredibly challenging economic circumstances.

“As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, it’s imperative British food and farming has sufficient funding for the capital investments that are needed – whether that’s investing in the environment, energy efficiency or productivity.

"Because farmers and growers want to do more for sustainable food production and the environment, but we can’t do either without profitable businesses."

Finally, the NFU warned that the requirements imposed for Making Tax Digital for Income Tax would be "disproportionate, administratively burdensome and extremely costly".

Concerns centre around quarterly updates and Basic Period Reform, with the NFU asking for specific easements be applied to a minority of businesses, including removing the quarterly update requirement.