Thu 21 Apr 2022
“Affairs of state, quite rightly, occupy our minds at Shouler & Son this spring.
“When we started the year, headline concerns were driven by domestic considerations of increasing operating costs for businesses in focusing on the cost of living crisis. Yet in late February our focus turned to the international scene and the unsettling situation in Ukraine and the wider ramifications of conflict in the state known as the ‘bread basket of Europe’.”
Our sector has seen a tumble of key policy and funding scheme announcements from Defra with which rural & farming operators and their business advisers have had to get to grips with in short order.
As 2022 began, our rural professionals were busy working on behalf of clients to meet January deadlines for schemes under of the Farming Investment Fund (FIF) after the fund was launched by Defra in mid-November.
Two big announcements in first month of 2022 signposted a fork in the road for many farming businesses:
The Landscape Recovery Scheme (LR) and the Local Nature Recovery Scheme (LNR) are two major schemes under the ELMS umbrella in replacing the BPS and for which applications for pilot projects are already underway.
The Rural Payments Agency then published details of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Lump Sum Exit Scheme for those wishing to leave and/or retire from the sector. Applications are open from the end of April and will close at the end of September this year. Read article.
How the move to ELMS funding will affect tenant farmers is part of the remit of the Tenancy Working Group - which launched in February - and is scheduled to submit its report to Defra by the autumn.
For those committed to BPS funding until its end in 2027 and the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), the Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI) (Read article.) and the uplift in CSS payment announcements made in the past few months will be of great interest (Read article).
Applications for standalone capital grants covering boundaries, trees & orchards, water quality & air quality under the CSS opened in early February. These are more immediately and significantly important to current farm operators than some of the newly introduced schemes under ELMS.
Confirmation of SFI rates came from Defra at the end of March, with application period beginning in in June and remaining open to allow the opportunity of applying at a time that best works for the applicant. Read article.
This year’s BPS application round ends on 16 May.
While replacement BPS schemes are on the table and being considered by a number of Shouler & Son clients, opting out of central funding is another route we are exploring with clients. Many of whom - but not exclusively so - are those who have diversified to generate alternative or supplementary revenue streams over the past decades and with whom we have been side and by side in advising.
The pros & cons of monetising natural capital for alternative, or complementary, revenue schemes is, undoubtedly, one of the hottest topics on which we advise – particularly cautioning against ‘carbon cowboys’ and their positioning of offsetting schemes as a tempting quick win.
Many of these issues came together in the latest of the Farm Update seminars in early March we co-hosted with Duncan & Toplis & The Andersons Centre.
This informative forum provided a fitting end to the first quarter of the year and reinforced that the sector needs to steel itself for what is ahead. Not least of which are the prevailing winds of a turbulent geopolitical setting and their effect on world markets where, currently, forecasts have fertiliser now jumping to over £1,000 per tonne but where wheat can command over £300 per tonne.
“It’s an uncertain time for farming and rural businesses but uncertainty also offers new opportunities. In such a time, confident, independent expert advice is invaluable and, we believe, will always prove its worth.
“Farming and land has been at the core of Shouler & Son since the firm was founded. Our advisors have always faced forward with our rural business clients to meet the challenges the sector has faced down the years.”
For more information on Shouler & Son’s rural services and professional advice on eligibility for Defra grant funding contact Angela Wood, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 01664 560181 or see shoulers.co.uk/pages/agricultural-services.