THE Agriculture Bill passed into UK law on November 11, 2020 – a significant milestone for the agriculture sector as farmers look forward to the future of farming.

The Act was first introduced to Parliament in January 2020 after being announced in September 2018. The Agriculture Act will set out a new system that will change the way in which farming operates in the future as well as the phasing out direct payments with incentivised financial benefits – The Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

While very little is yet known about how ELMS will be structured, further details are expected in the near future. So far, it is known that future schemes will be modelled on: rewarding public goods with public money; achieving a thriving self-reliant farming system; achieving a trusting and productive relationship between the Government and farming; and world class animal welfare standards.

The scheme is also likely to have three tiers. ELMS is said to provide a power vehicle for achieving the goals of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, as well as achieving net zero emissions by 2050, increasing productivity and to help farmers remain competitive.

It is understood that funding will also be made available for further Countryside Productivity Schemes and that a new Animal Health Scheme is being considered.

James Thompson, Associate at youngsRPS, said; “The Agriculture Bill passing through parliament is a significant step forward for our industry. We have known change was on the horizon since the referendum in 2016, and have been preparing our clients by analysing and revaluating their business models, yet, have had limited information as to what would be replacing direct subsidy.

"Beginning in 2021, farmers will have a seven-year transition period to adjust to the new agriculture system. There has been a lot of speculation as to how the ELMS model will operate and be measured, however, we expect official information this month.

"The focus is clearly on the environment, sustainability and productivity, and I would have thought that any pilot scheme that is introduced next year will be very similar to environmental or countryside stewardship.

"I would advise that where possible farmers extend their existing agreements or take the opportunity to apply for a New Countryside Stewardship Agreement, as this will ensure they are in the best possible position for the introduction of ELMS.”