The RPA does not have a good reputation when it comes to making payments, but joining Countryside Stewardship may offer farmers an opportunity to mitigate Brexit uncertainty, says Lynette Steel, adviser at the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA).
Westminster and the EU are still negotiating, Ministers are resigning, and the RPA is still ‘processing your claim’, whether it be Environmental Stewardship, Countryside Stewardship or BPS.
It is easy to feel like everything is beyond our control, but now is the time to be more in control than ever before.
For farmers, this means putting into place robust business plans.
Spring farm rents are being reviewed and the TFA is urging landlords and agents to take a steady-as-you-go approach to rent review discussions.
With a lack of progress from Government on whether we will be trading in a deal or no-deal scenario after March 29 2019, we are currently encouraging tenants to discuss the continuing uncertainty and seek a shared vision for addressing change post-Brexit with their landlords.
We are also seeing several farms-to-let come on to the market. For those who are considering making an application or renewing current tenancies, it is vital to remain mindful of the uncertain future and ensure you can sustain your business model and achieve rents tendered whatever the trading conditions.
With the current track record of Rural Payments Agency (RPA) performance, it would be easy to dismiss entry into this year’s round of Countryside Stewardship.
But farmers do need to consider whether entry, to start January 1 2020, is the right thing to do.
Waiting for a better offer under a transitional environmental scheme or the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) could be wasting an opportunity.
The new ELMS is not due to be launched until 2024 at the earliest, so it is vital to consider the options and certainties the current scheme offers now.
The overall look of the ELMS is still very much to be decided, and while we wait for the Agriculture Bill to progress through the House of Commons, we have no further information on how ‘public money for public goods’ will be defined.
We do know the ELMS will include objectives to improve air and water quality, encourage plant and wildlife species, mitigate climate change and encourage public engagement with the natural environment.
But we do not know how these six key objectives will be met, what menu options farmers will have to achieve them or how they will be implemented.
So, if you have hedges which need laying or concrete yards to resurface, now might be the right time to take advantage of the current scheme.