Farmers warned they could miss out on vital green income

Henry Barringer, food and farming consultant with Savills Norwich

Henry Barringer, food and farming consultant with Savills Norwich - Credit: Richard Marsham

Norfolk farmers could miss out on vital income if they wait for new post-Brexit environmental payment schemes to become available, said rural agents.

The government is phasing out EU subsidies paid through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which is based on the amount of land farmed, and replacing it with a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) which will instead reward farmers for work to improve landscapes and ecosystems.

While BPS payments are being phased out over the next seven years, the new scheme is still under development and most farmers will not be able to sign up to it until 2024, with the full national roll-out expected by 2027.

Henry Barringer from the food and farming team at Savills in Norwich, said this has led many farmers to re-evaluate whether to apply for environmental funding under the existing Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), or wait for more details to emerge about ELMS.

But with the next CSS round now open he said, rather than thinking in terms of "either / or", farmers should make use of this guaranteed income and transfer it to ELMS without penalty at a later date.

“Until we have the detail for ELMS it is difficult to establish by what degree it may compensate towards the loss in BPS income," he said. "But by entering into a CSS, income will be guaranteed for the agreement length.

"Allocating one hectare of marginal land currently in arable production to winter bird food, for example, will provide an income of £640 per hectare per annum. In some cases, this will bring in a higher payment rate than producing a poor yielding arable crop.

"By identifying marginal areas and stewardship options that best suit these, farmers can take advantage of receiving a guaranteed income on those areas for the next five years."

Mr Barringer said new measures have been introduced by the Rural Payments Agency to encourage take-up of CSS agreements in 2021, such as a simplified inspection process, the removal of some penalties for over declaration and "the ability to break the scheme without penalty to allow the farmer to enter ELMS."

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