Farmers gave a mixed reaction to the Government’s agricultural transition plan (ATP), with many fearing the consequences of less money flowing into businesses and the communities they serve.
Others, like Bryan Griffiths, Devon sheep farmer and National Sheep Association chairman, said they were disappointed the document failed to give them the detail they needed to ‘create meaningful business plans for the future’.
Will Case, a beef, sheep and poultry farmer from Ulverston, Cumbria, said: “The overriding message is farmers will receive less money despite delivering more environmental goals, which is disappointing to see.
“Unless better environmental funding is created or the market picks up the slack, there will be a hole in farm budgets and rural businesses. Not just farmers will suffer.”
Sarah Bell, a mixed farmer from Rutland on the Lincolnshire/Leicestershire border, called for an impact assessment at both the farm end and through the supply chain.
“There is no indication which part of the £1.6 million funding will fall into which pot and, realistically, this policy only has a life against this Government,” she said.
“Ultimately, its success will be judged by how many profitable farming businesses are still here in 2025.”
She added simplicity of scheme design will be crucial for any uptake.
Tom Vickers, an upland beef and sheep farmer from Weardale, County Durham, said there was a real danger farmers already involved in agri-environment schemes for numerous years could get ‘left behind’.
“Our farm has been part of schemes for 30 years and like many others, has grown taking Basic Payments and higher level stewardship (HLS) into account,” he said.
“If ELM just replaces HLS payments, we will face a big funding gap compared to farmers at the start of their environment journey looking to capitalise on this.”
But there were waves of optimism, with Yorkshire dairy farmer Paul Tompkins lauding Defra for its focus on slurry management within the document.
“It has given me hope Government recognises the long-term benefits of improving water and air quality and the need to help farmers through the journey with research and infrastructure funding,” he said.
“Typically, dairy farmers do not get involved in agri-environment schemes so it could hook them in and I look forward to finding out more details.”
David Exwood, a mixed farmer from West Sussex, said while the plan was more a ’signpost than a roadmap’, it was clear farmers wanted to see sustainable farming in the future.
“The problem is how it will work, as every farm is different and there is no one set example of good soil management,” he said.
“Farmers do care about the environment but the core of every business is farming so until we understand how viable the new schemes will be, it is unlikely many will go for ELMs and fit farming around that.
“It would be very hard to make any business decisions of the back of that announcement.”