£1.4bn farm fund needed post-Brexit, CLA says

Landowners have called for a fund that would invest £200m annually in agricultural productivity, advice and skills to help farmers adjust to life after Brexit.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said the annual productivity fund should be introduced from 2021 and continue throughout a seven-year transition period.

In total, it would be worth £1.4bn.

See also: Direct payments to be phased out by 2027

The CLA, which represents about 30,000 rural business owners across England and Wales, made the recommendation in a policy briefing published on Friday (25 October).

It said farm businesses faced considerable risk as direct payments were phased out in favour of a new scheme requiring producers to undertake environmental work.

Significant challenge

The fund would help farmers prepare for the significant challenges of the seven-year transition period towards the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

It said ELMS should have competitive payment rates – alongside a comprehensive programme rewarding farmers who went beyond legal requirements on animal health and welfare.

The CLA briefing suggests that the £200m annual fund should comprise:

  • £140m to accelerate adoption of best practice and new technology, buildings, equipment and infrastructure to deliver productivity growth, resilience and environmental benefits. The CLA says industry fund matching could increase this to around £350m in total.
  • £30m to stimulate demand for professional business advice, change facilitation, managed restructuring and feasibility reviews. The CLA says industry contributions from farmers, AHDB and the supply chain could increase this to £80m in total.
  • A £30m agri-skills fund for ongoing professional development. This should cover business, digital, technical and environmental training and development. Industry contributions could deliver £80m in total.

At the same time, the CLA said funding for current agri-environmental schemes should be increased to encourage uptake among farmers and landowners.

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer described the funding streams as tangible, commonsense proposals that were designed to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

“The scale of the changes expected of farmers in the coming years should not be underestimated and some will be at considerable risk as we switch between payment systems,” he said.

The £200m year fund would help farmers positively respond to the challenges of continuing to feed the nation while delivering public goods.