How will Direct Payments change under the ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’ document?

The UK government has published its landmark ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’ document today (November 30) as it prepares for life outside the EU from January 1.

The government has laid out how Direct Payments will change post-Brexit for English farmers.

Also Read: ‘We are no longer bound by the EU’ – Landmark ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’ document

Each UK administration has the flexibility to develop agricultural policy suited to their own circumstances.

According to the government, the Direct Payments currently made through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) offer “poor value for money, reward those with most land, inflate rents and stand in the way of new entrants”.

The government said that the savings from phasing out these untargeted payments will free up more of the agricultural budget, which will go back to farmers through the roll-out of Environmental Land Management scheme, and the introduction of schemes to help farmers to boost their productivity.

The document published sets out how Direct Payments will be reduced fairly over the next four years, with the biggest reductions made to the higher payment bands.

Further reductions will be applied until the last payments are made in 2027.

The government also said that in order to ensure that farmers are adequately supported throughout this journey, farming resilience programme will be made available throughout the first three years of the agricultural transition period to help those most affected by the phasing out of Direct Payments.

This will help farmers plan and manage their businesses through the transition to the new system.

Basic Payment Scheme

The document also sets out the various steps that have been taken to simplify the BPS for next year, in order to reduce the burden on farmers as they focus on transitioning to the new system.

This includes important changes to cross-compliance, such as an increased use of warning letters and offers of advice instead of farmers receiving a penalty as the default response to a breach of the rules.

It was also announced earlier in the year that the greening requirements for BPS customers, which were complicated and historically delivered little for the environment, would be removed next year.

This was documented in the European Court of Auditors 2017 Special Report on greening.

The government said that the new Environmental Land Management scheme, expected to be rolled out in late 2024, will introduce new ways of working together with farmers to deliver better environmental outcomes.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will consult formally on a proposal to offer lump sum exit payments to farmers who may wish to leave the sector and plans to delink Direct Payments from land for all farmers later in the agricultural transition.