Challenges UK farmers face and how they overcome them?

Environment Versus Production Or Do They Work Together?

UK Agriculture is on the brink of a period of potentially great change. For the last 40+ years agricultural policy has been set at an EU level, both in terms of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and environment policy.

Brexit offers the chance to profoundly reflect on the direction we are going and to change things.

The key challenge, in our opinion is that there will be less financial support for farming from the Government coffers over the next decade and what support is available will have many more obligations attached, requiring farmers to spend additional time and resources complying with them to obtain such funding.

Alongside this, UK Agriculture is coming under great scrutiny in terms of emissions and carbon footprint and this will only continue as we head towards the goal of ‘Net Zero’ by 2040.

The Basic Payment Scheme is due to be phased out from 2021 over six years and to be replaced in part by the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

We know that on all farms whether that is dairy, arable, beef or sheep – subsidy makes up a large proportion of existing profitability and without this, some businesses could find themselves under real strain.

Historically, environmental schemes have been an ‘add on’ income source, a points exercise or something that requires too much paperwork to be worth applying for!

Looking forward, this could be a real opportunity for some farms – with the environment becoming an ‘enterprise’ in its own right. There needs to be a change in mindset, away from production at any cost to ‘producing efficiently, utilising the resources you have available.’

Environmental Schemes whether that be the existing Countryside Stewardship Scheme or the replacement ELMS should be looked at in detail by all farms. There may be an opportunity to remove unprofitable areas of the farm – corners, headlands or steep landscapes. Utilise schemes to benefit rotation, with cover crops, legume fallow etc or improve farm infrastructure to protect landscape features with funding for fencing, tracks and roofing, to name a few.

Looking more radically, could an environmental scheme be beneficial for future enterprises on the farm, improving the look and landscape for example, tree planting, pollen & nectar mix strips alongside new glamping enterprises or wedding venues as an example.

The loss of direct subsidy might be a challenge for some, but should actually be seen as a real opportunity for most farms. Now is the time to consider the future plan for your farm – do you know your objectives, what is your five year plan and where does the environment / reducing emissions fit in?

The future of farming looks positive – but will move away from food production only to – ‘farming for food, farming people and farming for the environment!  

Blanchards Bailey

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