AS we move on from an unprecedented year, Tim Sedgewick, Associate Director of H&H Land and Estates, highlights some of the recent changes in the farming industry and the positive outlook they offer for farmers.

This year we see the beginning of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) phase out, with the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) being launched in 2022 as an on-going replacement. This new scheme will give those farmers undertaking sustainable activities the chance to secure a complementary income. Initially, the SFI will only be open to those who were previously in receipt of BPS. Opening to others over time, it is expected to evolve and encourage a wider range of baseline environmental priorities.

Farmers will be paid if their land can demonstrate it contributes to the natural environment, encouraging healthy hedgerows, plants and wildlife. These factors will all help to minimise major environmental impacts such as flooding and drought. In doing so the land’s attractiveness will be enhanced, and you will be protecting the natural environment and contributing to the UK’s carbon net zero targets.

Other examples of SFI’s include protecting and encouraging hedgerows, and incentivised soil management - activities which also trap carbon and promote biodiversity. There will also be local nature and landscape recovery initiatives, re-wilding, and tree-planting schemes.

Funding will still be available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which can trigger very lucrative capital grants for a wide range of farm productivity and environmental measures.

These schemes are intended to make farms more productive, as well as environmentally friendly, with land on the edge of profitability devoted to other uses, and better land, better managed for more sustainable production.

There is also good news in farm gate prices. Despite all the doom and gloom over prices, since the beginning of 2021 livestock values have shown encouraging signs, with cattle and sheep prices as high as they have ever been. Grain and rapeseed prices have also been higher than in recent times. Let us hope they can all be sustained.

The unpredictability of 2020’s pandemic was a major crisis for many industries; however, one undeniable benefit is that it pushed the British public to shop local. When supermarket shelves were stripped bare, shoppers turned to their local farm shops and independent businesses, often finding the produce on offer to be of better quality with comparable prices. So the Pandemic has demonstrated the benefits of locally well produced food, and all surveys are pointing out an increase in the footfall down at your local farm shop or butcher’s.

As we move back towards normality, we are still seeing this trend continue, with the general public continuing to appreciate home grown food, the nation’s great green spaces, and by the same association; our fantastic British farmers. Supporting small businesses has become ingrained in many people over the course of the lockdown and surveys suggest championing UK-grown food is a movement we are likely to see more of over the next few years.