Agriculture & Rural Land News – Spring 2020
Despite the disruption caused by the impact of Covid -19, Spring is proving to be a busy period for rural news:
Agriculture & Environment Bills
The Agriculture Bill had reached the Report stage of its passage through the House of Commons following the Committee debates. The current draft Bill can be viewed at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0106/20106.pdf
The Environment Bill was being considered by the Public Bill Committee following its second Reading in the Commons on 26 February. The current draft Bill can be viewed at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0009/20009.pdf
One of the main features of both these Bills is that Direct payments, also known as Basic Payments, will be phased out to from 2021 to 2028, during the ‘agricultural transition period’. Payments during the transition will be based on a ‘reference period’, which is to be confirmed. The Government will also have the ability to make delinked payments, with no obligation for the recipient of the payments to remain a farmer. Payments can also be made in a lump sum, but as yet there are no further details than previously published.
Farm support will be paid to land managers for providing “public goods” through the new Environmental Land Management System (ELMS). Once introduced, farmers will need to carry out environmental work, over and above any minimum legal requirements in order to receive financial support from the Government. ELMS are due to be rolled out in 2024, replacing schemes available under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The new ELMs will transform the way in which the Government supports farmers.
The soundbite echoed in Government in driving the new legislation forward is ‘public money to deliver public goods’.
Environmental Land Management Scheme
DEFRA have also published a policy discussion paper on the proposed ELM Scheme on 25 February. The policy can be found here: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/elm/elmpolicyconsultation/. The discussion paper invites comments with a deadline for responses of 5 May.
Two month window to claim for farm payments for 2020 opens
The two month application window opened on 12 March and is due to close on 15 May. As yet there is no guidance issued by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) regarding growing concern that it may be difficult to meet the application deadline as many professional advisors are working remotely and will not be able to visit farms.
The Rural Payments Agency has confirmed that Basic Payment Scheme 2020 payments will be paid in Sterling using the exchange rate for BPS 2019 of €1 = £0.89092, which is the same as 2019.
Farming Recovery Fund & relaxation of Three Crop Rule
The Government announced two new measures on 20th March to assist farming struggling to recover from the flooding over winter.
The Government have confirmed that they are relaxing the 3 crop rule, along with a £6 million pot of funding to help farmers recover from flooding. The application dates for the Farming Recovery Fund has been extended and details will be released in due course providing guidance on how to apply and eligibility within affected counties. Support will be available for farmers affected by recent flooding in parts of East and North Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Herefordshire.
Countryside Productivity Small Grants
The application deadline for Countryside Productivity Small Grants has been extended to midnight on 31 July 2020.
Reforming Agricultural Tenancies
DEFRA published of their response to the agricultural tenancy consultation (held in 2019) on 18 March 2020, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reforming-agricultural-tenancies-in-england
Between April and July 2019, the Government consulted on a range of options for reforming agricultural tenancy law in England. The proposals aimed to remove barriers to productivity improvements and facilitate structural change in the tenant farming sector.
The consultation covered topics such as succession on retirement under Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies, changes to eligibility & suitability tests and on restrictions of use, and lifting barriers for landlord’s to make investments.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, then please contact Hazel Eccles who will be happy to assist.