‘We require much greater detail on the Path to Sustainable Farming’ – NSA

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is cautiously welcoming the Environment Secretary George Eustice’s unveiling of the government’s agricultural transition plan – ‘The Path to Sustainable Farming’, but is keen to see more detail worked up as a matter of urgency.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker commented:

Change is uncomfortable, particularly when farmers livelihoods depend on it, but we have known for the last four and a half years that change is coming, so the announcement of the planned transition for farmers and land managers in England is welcome.

“Along with the fact that Defra [Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs] has clearly been working hard to take on board the views of farming organisations such as NSA and many others.

There is a long way to go before we can be confident of the final outcomes of these huge changes in the way the government supports farmers, and it is going to be really important for the industry and Defra to keep reminding ourselves that the next seven years still need to be about learning and fine-tuning schemes, or even more radical change where appropriate.

“We need more detail and look forward to working closely with Defra over the future months and years, putting flesh on the bones of the skeleton of what the Secretary of State has announced.”

‘We require much greater detail’

Bryan Griffiths, Devon sheep farmer and NSA Chairman said:

“Many farmers will look at the plans released and still ask what they will be doing differently tomorrow or even in 12 months’ time.

As sheep producers and land managers, we require much greater detail if we are to create meaningful business plans for the future. Payment rates and the impact on management practices together with input costs and levels of output will all influence our decision making.”

“The NSA welcomes the inclusion of key topics such as the exit scheme, incentives for new entrants, the ability to go beyond income foregone when rewarding farmers for environmental and animal welfare management, and the farm investment programme in the transition plan.

However it is difficult to react to today’s publication of the plan further without knowing additional detail, and at this stage, the NSA would simply remind Defra and ministers that the English sheep farming sector is one that already engages closely with a form of regenerative farming in many ways.

“The sector consists mainly of traditional enterprises where the innovation and technology spoken about in the plans needs to be relative and proportionate to the farming system,” he concluded.