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NFU urges BPS payment delay

The current maelstrom of issues facing the agriculture sector has prompted the National Farmers Union (NFU) to call on the government to delay the reduction in Basic Payment Schemes (BPS) in 2022 and 2023.

With labour shortages, uncertainty over trade deals, a crisis in the pig sector, disruption to the supply chain, a rise in red diesel prices and a host of other issues facing the UK, the NFU has warned that the future success of farming is under real threat.

NFU President Minette Batters said: ‘I really fear for the future success of farming in this country if the government presses ahead with its current timetable to transition to its new agriculture policy schemes which simply aren’t ready.

‘That’s why we are calling for a postponement to the BPS reductions in 2022 and 2023, alongside a thorough review, to ensure the new policies and schemes are ready with clear incentives and objectives.’

Batters made it clear that the NFU was not seeking to delay 2021 reductions as DEFRA would need to free up some funding to continue developing and trailing new farming schemes, but that in itself was a problem as highlighted by Batters.

‘If these schemes are to be fit for purpose, we will need to see thousands of farmers signing up, instead of the 100s we have today,’ she said.

The reduction in BPS, which guarantees an income to farmers in the event of failing crops or falling prices, starts to roll out this year, with gradual further reductions until 2027. The Environmental Land Management Scheme will be gradually introduced, although this is not a replacement for BPS. Throughout this time-frame financial support for farmers will gradually reduce. This challenge, says Batters, is one of multiple challenges that farmers are grappling with.

The Welsh government has already announced it will extend BPS to 2023 and similar delays have been announced in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The NFU said a BPS delay must also be implemented in England for 2022 and 2023 amid ‘severe disruptions to essential food producing businesses’.