FARMING groups have welcomed the Government's consultation on changes to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to support farmers through the agricultural transition period from now until 2027.

The consultation will be open for 12 weeks and seeks to gain responses from the agricultural sector on two key areas:

n Lump sum exit scheme: The government proposes to offer farmers, who would like to retire or leave the industry, a lump sum payment to help them do this in a planned and managed way.

n Delinked payments: The Government plans to phase Direct Payments out over a gradual seven-year transition period. The consultation includes plans to separate the payment from the amount of land farmed from 2024, as well as encouraging farmers to take up the Government’s new environmental land management schemes, which will reward sustainable food production and environmental improvements.

The proposals within the consultation seek to offer a fairer system for farmers, encouraging generational change by providing more flexibility for new entrants to start up their farm businesses and supporting those who are ready to leave the sector to do so on their own terms.

CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “We welcome the launch of this long-awaited consultation on the lump sum exit scheme and the administration of direct payments as the scheme is phased out.

“The consultation does give much-needed information on the exit scheme. But for those considering the scheme, there are still many questions to be answered that will only be available after the consultation.

"The scheme will not be for everyone, but if the scheme is to contribute to industry restructuring and create opportunities for new entrants and those wishing to expand, there are some critical issues to be addressed – including clarity on tax treatment of lump sums payments, and the eligibility and exit conditions.

"The biggest challenge is the timing, and there can be no further delays in launching the scheme later this year.”

The National Sheep Association (NSA) sees this as a further step towards developing clarity over the new Future Farming schemes and what will replace the BPS as it is phased out. Working with its own NSA English Committee, the association will discuss the implications of the proposals and formulate a full response in due course.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “While this consultation frames some of Defra’s thinking, we will still have to wait until October for final details and the clock is ticking fast in terms of the reductions in BPS and the development of new Future Farming Schemes.

"At this stage, NSA’s thinking is that we welcome support to help those who want to retire to do so with dignity, more so than we want to see farmers encouraged to exit.”

He said that much of today’s farming in the UK has been shaped by past government regulation and common agricultural policy and with a creative approach in terms of development and implementation, much can be done in this scheme to support future prospects.

The consultation will close for responses on August 11, 2021. See for details.