Call to delay farming cuts over food supply chain crisis

The impact of the growing crisis in the food supply chain on the farming sector has prompted calls from farmers south of the border for a postponement of planned cuts to the core support system.

Minette Batters
Minette Batters

While Scotland is still developing its plans for future agricultural policy, England is further down the line, with cuts set to be imposed on the Basic Payments Scheme this year, followed by more severe reductions in 2022 and 2023 as new environmental schemes are introduced.

The English NFU claimed that the current difficulties across the supply chain have left farmers and growers with multiple challenges which have caused severe disruptions to essential food producing businesses and has called for the cuts planned for 2022 and 2023 to be delayed.

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“The perfect storm, which is seeing a shortage of workers bringing to a halt the UK’s just-in-time supply chains in some places, as well as rising inflation adding increased costs to farms, against a backdrop of disrupted trade flows and a fierce retail price war is causing huge challenges to people trying to run effective farm businesses,” said NFU president Minette Batters.

The union also said that a National Audit Office report had highlighted failures on Defra’s part to publish detailed objectives or ensure adequate incentives for farmers to sign up to the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) which is expected to replace the basic payment scheme.

Stating that the new scheme wasn’t set to be fully operational until 2024, Batters said that against the current backdrop of challenges, delaying the cuts would give the administration more time to develop replacement schemes which were attractive enough to be taken up by producers.

“This change in agricultural policy represents the biggest transformation for farmers in generations, and the NFU and its members want – and need - this transition to be a success,” said Batters, who added that the sector had one only chance to get it right.

Stating that the industry was keen to play its part in environmental measures she continued: “But I really fear for the future success of farming in this country if the government presses ahead with its current timetable to transition to its new agriculture policy schemes which simply aren’t ready.”

Making it clear that the union was not asking for the planned cut in direct payments in 2021 to be postponed she added: “Defra will need to make some cuts to free up funding for the development and trialing of the new schemes while using the time to secure buy-in from all farmers.

”If these schemes are to be fit for purpose, we will need to see thousands of farmers signing up, instead of the 100s we have today,” said Batters.

Meanwhile, with the Scottish government still consulting on taking forward the findings and recommendations of the Farmer Lead Groups (FLGs) to set the course of future farm policy in Scotland, a webinar, which will set out the current situation and the intentions of the administration, has been organised by NFU Scotland for members on October 13 at 7pm.

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