While for the most part agriculture has avoided the worst effects of Covid-19, minds are certainly starting to focus on the breadth of change heading the industry’s way in 2021, namely Brexit and the shifting sands of farm support.
As the late autumn events season ramped up again this week, albeit in the still often surreal setting of online video meetings and webinars, much attention has been paid to what future support schemes will look like for British farmers and when they will become reality.
But the problem for many, and as this week’s Farmers Guardian shows, is that while there is much debate about the nature of farm support over the ensuing decade, there is still very little clarity about what the next few years have in store.
While the various UK nations each have a different approach to the future of direct payments, concerns are mounting about how the transition to new schemes will be handled and who the likely winners and losers will be in the process.
And whether it is calls in Scotland for a grace period at the start of next year in order to adapt to new legislation and trading regimes, or concerns in Wales about whether the uplands will be correctly underpinned by Government, or English farmers having to deal with George Eustice’s unwillingness to bend on direct support, there are major stumbling blocks across the board.
What this lack of clarity also does is create uncertainty, whether that is regarding how much financial support a farm business will be able to draw down, or what the long term commercial prospects are for a sector dealing with a number of different challenges.
For farmers to be heading into 2021 with little idea about what future funding and support will look like is woeful and could, in the short term at least, undermine business confidence across much of the sector.