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Jeremy's Blog 18/9/2020: The New Regime

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 17th September 2020.

As the Agriculture Bill enters its final straight, ministers have talked of the next steps in creating England’s post-Brexit regime, stressing productivity as interlinked with “public goods”: “our natural resources essential for food production”.

A major series of statements and consultations are to come towards the end of the year with:

  • the plan for the coming schemes giving “further information on funding for the early years of agricultural transition period” and so some of the phasing out of BPS
  • a consultation on the delinking of BPS and lump sum payments
  • a consultation on regulatory enforcement.

Productivity grants are to assist investment in equipment, technology and infrastructure from 2021.

ELMS and schemes for animal welfare and plant health are to buy change to meet six aims from the 25 Year Environment Plan: “clean air, clean and plentiful water, thriving plants and wildlife, reduction in and protection from environmental hazards such as flooding, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment”. Those being wider than Countryside Stewardship (for which farmers will be able to apply until 2023), a “stepping-stone” (“Sustainable Farming Incentive”?) towards ELMS Tier 1 has been mooted, perhaps for matters like soils and nutrients.

ELMS Tier 1 is to be for environmentally sustainable farming, Tier 2 to buy change in land use and Tier 3 for wider scale landscape management and collaboration. The latter two would be more geared to local priorities, perhaps following the Environment Bill’s Local Nature Recovery Strategies which may also inform planning policies and the use of biodiversity net gain.

So far as ELMS might pay usefully, that is the carrot, paying for public goods that are above the stick of the regulatory baseline which could rise. The force of cross compliance will wane with BPS but much is in legislation. Penalties may become more proportionate but standards may be strengthened and the consultation may review “other possible levers that we could use to encourage more effective industry compliance”.

Farmers will need advice: “I reiterate the Government’s view that expert advice and guidance is critical to the successful delivery of future schemes”. DEFRA proposes to use the Bill’s ability to fund the provision of advice, guidance and other support. 40 tests and trials include this and “ways in which skills and qualifications in environmental land management can be improved” showing that advice “must be trusted, consistent, credible and cost effective”.

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