AS we move into 2022, I hope that there is further clarity in the direction of travel for the Agricultural Transition Plan, writes Farmer columnist, David Hall,NFU NW Regional Director.

Mid-November saw the launch of the Farming Investment Fund which is aimed at helping farmers invest to help improve productivity and start to address the gap losing BPS will leave. The deadline for applications to this fund are very tight and will require a quick turnaround of an application. The minimum application is now £2,000 which brings it in reach of smaller farmers, but I would not encourage anyone to go on a spending spree just to get a grant. Think wisely before making an application.

First reductions in BPS payments will have now been taken and the payment we receive will be less than in previous years.We have seen reductions in previous years due to currency fluctuation, but we know there is only one direction of travel for future payments and by 2024 it will be 50% or less for all of us.

Announcements of what the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) 2022 will look like are awaited and I do hope that Defra has listened and set payment rates that fairly reward farmers for the work they do for the environment and don’t forget food production.

Government has committed to doing a self-sufficiency report and the NFU is concerned that this will be a bland piece of work. It could be so much more and a real baseline for the industry to work from and grow. I know many members share my concern about the way that dairy and meat production is being portrayed in the media with many, particularly the BBC, advocating that reductions will save the planet. Research shows that UK beef production is 52% less that the global average for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and dairy is less than that.

The NFU represent farmers on a number of climate groups around the region and in every county. We always champion locally produced product and UK sourcing. One of the best things local authorities could do is source UK produce, not imported.

Government has launched a new campaign to support exports called ‘Made in the UK, sold to the World’ and the NFU is pushing that a commitment is made to invest in market development to open up new markets globally.

I am a firm believer that the farming community should not look at climate change and the drive to reduce GHG emissions as a threat, it is an opportunity that we must grasp.

Fertiliser prices will definitely be praying on many members’ minds at the moment. I know some have bought early and some will be waiting until the spring to see if there is any reduction.

Global supplies look very tight, which is signalling that prices will remain tight also. The need for a nutrient management plan has never been more appropriate as every unit of nitrogen will need to be accounted for due to its value. Application of organic fertilisers like slurry, farmyard manure and sewage sludge provide a natural source of nutrients and it seems ridiculous that the Environment Agency are taking the approach they are with Farming Rules for Water. This is something that is an ongoing issue for many sectors and the NFU is pushing Minsters hard to intervene and inject some common sense and a joined-up approach.