The Agricultural Transition Plan published on the 30 November is vital reading for foresters. It really does herald a revolution in land management incentives (and to a lesser extent regulation) and outlines how the different schemes and components will interact, including the Environmental Land Management scheme.
Some of the biggest developments are reductions in direct farm payments, redirecting this money to environmental outcomes, retirement options for farmers and increased support for transition away from the status quo.
To accompany the Agricultural Transition Plan, Defra have created a suite of products to make sure farmers, foresters and other land managers, and those people they trust as advisers, feel informed about the changes after the transition period ends.
If you are involved in advice, the following document will be of use to you and contains an overview of the changes, with a Q&A section.
If you are a farmer or land manager, the Farming is Changing publication summarises the Agricultural Transition Plan.
The UK Government and Defra are committed to the idea of co-design to develop the framework in the proposed plan for England. Strong engagement from the sector will help shape this in a positive way for the sector, but this is a big task over the next four years, with many pilots and tests and trials running to help shape the final, firmer offer starting in 2024.
The Institute’s engagement work has been running for several years.
In 2019, we wrote a position paper on the Environmental Land Management scheme and sent it to George Eustice MP, and earlier this year we produced a response to Defra’s policy discussion document with Confor, the Royal Forestry Society and the Woodland Trust.
We are represented on various Defra working groups including the ELM engagement group (the lead over-arching group) and the ELM Advice satellite group. We are also linking up with partners like Confor wherever possible.
As well as these we hope to be joining the Future Farming Countryside Programmes Co-design team, covering items such as capital grants, advice/guidance and business planning. This has control of around 10% of the overall budget and has the potential to shape future land management hugely.
Work is ongoing on the future of advice/guidance, grant rates/basis/scope and eligibility criteria, as well as linkages with current interventions and regulatory processes. This is a marathon not a sprint and there’s a long way to go but we just edged past another milestone!
Neville Elstone MICFor