Agriculture Bill looks set to replace farmer’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
In October 2018, The Agriculture Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons. It is now set for its Report Stage. Whilst the Bill is still to be enacted, Farmers across the country look set to have funding cut once the UK exits the EU.
How will the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) be phased out?
The Agriculture Bill focusses on the phasing out of the BPS. Whilst BPS payments will continue until 2021 they look set to steadily reduce over a seven year agricultural transition period.
The Bill also provides for the making of “de-linked” payments to farmers in lieu of any future BPS entitlement. It is intended that the progressive reduction in payments from 2021 will be applied as follows.
The net result is that the largest farming businesses will receive higher cuts to their payments. It is not yet known how the reductions will change over the transition period. This will be subject to ministerial regulation.
New Environmental Land Management Contracts will replace BPS
The Agriculture Bill did announce a new system of support intended to replace BPS. This will come in the form of new Environmental Land Management Contracts that are intended to be the primary source of funding for farmers following the removal of the BPS.
The Bill provides the government with power to provide financial assistance for “Public Goods” which covers the following activity:
• Managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment
• Supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland
• Managing land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances cultural heritage or natural heritage
• Mitigating or adapting to climate change
• Preventing, reducing or protecting from environmental hazards
• Protecting or improving the health or welfare of livestock
• Protecting or improving the health of plants
On looking at the committee notes, it is clear that there is some movement towards altering or adding to this list but this has not been finalised. The principal behind the payments will be to achieve public benefits and they are not specifically for supporting farming activity or farmers.