Calls for £1.4 billion investment in productivity to help farmers through agricultural transition

Proposals for an annual £200m investment in productivity, advice and skills throughout the seven year transition period have been put forward by the Country Land and Business Association.
calendar icon 1 November 2019
clock icon 3 minute read

The group, representing around 30,000 rural business owners across England and Wales, made the suggestions in a new policy briefing, Ensuring the agricultural transition delivers for farming, forestry and the environment. The document argues that there is considerable risk to farmers in the transition period, compounded further by post-Brexit uncertainty.

The fund is one of the highest priority strands of activity suggested, to help farmers prepare for the significant challenges of the upcoming transition period. In parallel though there should be increased funding for current agri-environmental schemes to encourage uptake, a gradual introduction of a well-designed ELMS containing clear deliverables and competitive payment rates, along with a comprehensive programme rewarding those who go beyond legal requirements on animal health and welfare.

The £200 million a year productivity fund is suggested to start from 2021, to minimise the lag between investment and impact, and should continue throughout the transition period. It is made up of:

  • An investment fund of £140 million to accelerate adoption of best practice and new technology, buildings, equipment and infrastructure that will deliver productivity growth, resilience and environmental benefits. Matched funding from industry as part of grants or loans could deliver around £350 million investment in total.
  • An advice fund of £30 million to stimulate demand for professional business advice, change facilitation, managed restructuring and feasibility reviews. Programmes that enable initial business advice to open up funding for targeted advice would help ensure good value for money. Industry contributions from farmers, AHDB and the supply chain could deliver £80 million investment in total.
  • An agri-skills fund of £30 million to stimulate demand for, and overcome barriers to, ongoing professional development. This has been shown to deliver value and should cover business, digital, technical and environmental training and development. Collaborative actions and industry contributions through part funding by farmers, AHDB and the supply chain could deliver £80 million investment in total.

Commenting on the research, CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “The scale of the changes expected of farmers in the coming years should not be underestimated and some will be at considerable risk as we switch between payment systems.

“Our tangible, common sense proposals are designed to ensure a smooth and successful transition. The £200 million year fund supporting the required investments in productivity, skills and advice will assist the sector in positively responding to the challenges of continuing to feed the nation with a sustainable quality food supply, whilst in parallel delivering public good.”

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