Agriculture Bill: ‘Golden handshake’ to quit farming

Farmers will be able to use direct payments as a “golden handshake” to retire from the industry under plans contained in the government’s Agriculture Bill.

To help new entrants get into the sector and give farmers flexibility to plan for the future, direct payments will be “delinked” from the requirement to farm the land.

See also: Direct payments to be phased out by 2027

This will give farmers much greater freedom over how they use the money they receive until direct payments are phased out completely in 2027.

The government is also looking to give farmers the option of taking a one-off lump sum in place of all their annual payments over a number of years.

Retirement fund

Some farmers could use the money to invest in their business or diversify without having to worry about the paperwork that accompanies the basic payment scheme.

But others may choose to take the money as a lump sum to stop farming altogether and use the payment to contribute to their retirement fund.

Defra says this should make it easier for new extrants to get into the industry – and for existing farmers to expand by acquiring land.

It says allowing farmers to take payments this way meets a widespread desire for simplification.

Good practice

De-linking will also remove the requirement to follow existing EU rules – as well as the system of payment deductions that enforces them.

The change in the last remaining years until direct payments are finally abolished could help improve some of their more onerous requirements.

But the government says all farmers will still have to comply with good land management and husbandry standards.

It says alternative enforcement mechanisms will be introduced before payments are delinked to ensure that good agricultural and environmental practice is maintained.