Concerns have been raised that Defra’s focus on no-deal planning has meant work on promised productivity-boosting measures has been pushed down the agenda.
Farmers Guardian understands the food and farming team in the department, which is responsible for productivity, has been heavily engaged in preparing for a no-deal Brexit, while the environment team has been ploughing ahead with work on the new public money for public goods scheme.
Industry bodies have always maintained productivity-boosting measures must be included in any post-Brexit agriculture legislation, with productivity being listed as one of the NFU’s three ‘cornerstones’ of a future policy, alongside the environment and volatility management.
NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: “Defra has clearly outlined productivity measures being introduced in the [agricultural] transition period up to 2028.
“Just as we are seeing the development of ELMS through tests and trials, it would be good to see similar progress with productivity.
“This is particularly so as existing programmes such as the productivity schemes and the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme are coming to an end.”
This fear that farmers could be ‘heading into a void’ as rural funding programmes come to a close is growing.
EU funding is due to be replaced by the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), but a recent House of Lords Rural Economy Committee report pointed out a lack of detail about how the money will be shared between urban and rural areas is hampering the ability of businesses in the countryside to plan and invest.
Farmers are also still waiting for a start date for the next round of Countryside Productivity Small Grants, which Defra insists will be published in ‘spring’.
A Defra spokesman said: “A Defra spokesman said: “As we have said before, we will introduce measures to boost sustainable productivity during the seven-year transition period, including financial assistance for famers to invest in new technologies and methods.
"We will set out more detail on this as the Agriculture Bill goes through Parliament, including how farmers can benefit.”