Looming loss of subsidies is eroding farmers' confidence

NFU East Anglia regional director Gary Ford

Gary Ford is the East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) - Credit: Pagepix

The phase-out of EU subsidies after Brexit has been highlighted as the key factor forcing down the business confidence of East Anglia's farmers.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has published the results of a survey which shows both short-term and mid-term confidence has remained negative for the third year running.

The top concern reported was the loss of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) subsidies, which are being phased out between 2021 and 2028.

Of the farmers responding to the survey, 78pc said they believed the phasing out of BPS would have a negative impact on their business.

Defra ministers say the money saved from subsidy withdrawals will be redistributed through a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) which will instead reward farmers for work to improve landscapes and ecosystems.

But with the emerging ELMS scheme not scheduled to be rolled out in full until 2024, with "some core elements" introduced in 2022, there are concerns of a potential funding gap.

Other concerns listed in the NFU survey include a rise in input prices and changes to regulation and legislation due to Brexit.

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The survey also shows that 44pc of farmers have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with the figure jumping to 73pc for horticulture businesses.

NFU East Anglia regional director Gary Ford said: "Farming is a long-term business and for its long-term success it’s absolutely vital that farmers have the confidence to invest in, and build, their businesses.

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"The fact that both short and mid-term confidence has remained negative since 2018 is very telling of the uncertainty and challenges farmers continue to face.

"It is not surprising that the phasing out of BPS is the top concern among our membership. Farmers will start seeing payment rates being reduced this year, without any new schemes to replace this income and a lack of detail about the interim and future schemes.

"Not knowing what kind of standards will be involved in these schemes makes it difficult for farm businesses to plan.

"Farmers need to know that the government is supporting them and investing in rural Britain, working to level up urban and rural areas and tackling issues such as rural planning, rural crime and inefficient broadband and connectivity."

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