Spotlight on the UK-EU Post Brexit Trade Deal and Implications for UK Agriculture

On 24th December, the UK farming industry received an early Christmas present as a Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) was agreed with the EU, meaning that agricultural goods traded with the EU will not be subject to tariffs or quotas.  This Trade and Cooperation Agreement should minimise the disruption following the ending of the Transition Period on 31st December 2020.  However, with a whole range of Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) (checks, paperwork etc.) being imposed from that point, there will be added friction. 

The negotiations culminated in a frantic final haggle on fish quotas.  When a breakthrough was achieved on this issue, the remaining level playing field (LPF) and governance issues were quickly addressed.  The key provisions of the FTA are:

  • Trade in goods: will be tariff-free and quota-free on all goods trade between the UK and the EU.  This includes agri-food products.
  • NTMs: will be applicable on UK exports to the EU from January.  For EU imports to the UK new rules will become applicable on a phased basis between January and June 2021, based on the provisions of the UK Border Operating Model.  Linked with NTMs, additional provisions of the Deal include;
    • Rules of Origin (RoO): have been relaxed for up to 1 year so that companies have more time to gather the information necessary to meet RoO requirements.  These are basically local content rules which need to be met to ensure that goods traded between the UK and the EU are eligible for tariff-free treatment.  As a rule of thumb for agri-food products, 90% or more of the goods’ contents needs to be eligible (i.e. is UK produced and not originating from another ineligible third country).  This relaxation is important and helpful to traders as it goes some way to providing an implementation period to permit companies to adapt to the changed trading environment. 
    • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks: will become applicable immediately on UK exports to the EU.  This means that lamb exports to the EU will be subject to 15% physical checks whilst there will be a 30% physical check rate for dairy products for human consumption.  In the SPS area generally, it is arguable that the UK-EU FTA is lacking in ambition.  There will be a Specialised Committee set-up for SPS within the Governance structure of the agreement, which might bring some further easements in the future.  However, for now, the treatment of UK exports to the EU will not be much better than that of a standard third country, and certainly significantly worse than the level of access that New Zealand enjoys on its exports to the EU.
  • Fisheries: the quotas for EU fishing vessels’ access to UK waters will be reduced by 25% over a five and a half year transition period.  This quota will be repatriated to UK flagged vessels over this same period. Thereafter, annual negotiations would take place on the level of access that EU fishing vessels would have to British waters.  This arrangement has been met with criticism from the UK fishing industry which was anticipating a greater Brexit dividend. 
  • LPF: the EU pushed very hard on this issue which relates to upholding existing standards on the environment and labour laws so that the UK for instance cannot gain a competitive advantage in the future by undercutting EU rules.  The agreement includes mechanisms to enable one side to retaliate against the other if it is found that there is a breach of the LPF provisions.  Theoretically, this could mean that retaliatory tariffs could be introduced on agri-food trade in the event of such a breach, even if this violation occurs in another sector. 
  • State Aid: importantly, from a UK perspective, Britain can have its own independent system of subsidy control and neither party is bound to follow the rules of the other.  However, LPF provisions apply to prevent one side from gaining a significant competitive advantage over the other.
  • Ratification: in the UK, Parliament was recalled on 30th December to vote and as Labour had announced its intention to vote for the deal, its passing was a formality in the UK.  In the EU27, the process is somewhat more complicated.  Given the limited time available, the EU has decided to “provisionally apply” the deal from January.  However, it will be scrutinised further by both the European Parliament and at Member State level. This process is set to be undertaken during January and February.

Implications for UK Agri-Food

The announcement of a UK-EU trade deal was greeted with a sense of relief by the UK food and farming industry as it provides much greater certainty for the sector.  The major exception to this is the seed potatoes sector as exports from the UK to the EU will become prohibited.  This is a significant loss as the EU is a major export market for the British seed potatoes’ sector, particularly Scotland, which has amongst the highest product standards for seed potatoes globally.

Overall, the anticipated impacts on UK agricultural output and trade are expected to be limited.  The Andersons Centre has done some recent modelling work for the Scottish Government and the changes under the Deal are primarily due to the imposition of NTM costs.  These which generally range from just 0.1% (wheat, barley) up to 3% (beef) under a Free Trade Deal.  These findings are corroborated by recent comments from the Tesco Chairman (John Allan) who believes that the Brexit Deal will not lead to any significant effects on consumer prices.

Other key issues to watch out for include;

  • Exchange rates: these have a major bearing on the competitiveness of UK agri-food produce on international markets.  On the announcement of the UK-EU FTA, Sterling rose by 0.5% against the Dollar.  Generally speaking, a stronger Sterling is bad for UK farming as the prices of British agri-food produce become more expensive on global markets, whilst imports become cheaper.  In June 2016, following the referendum, Sterling weakened by 15-20% against the Euro and has not recovered since.  Where Sterling goes from here will have a major bearing on the UK agri-food sector’s financial performance.
  • Other FTAs: the UK has already made significant progress in negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, as well as the US to a lesser extent.  Some anticipate deals to be struck with Australia and New Zealand in 2021.  Given the extent to which these countries trade in beef, lamb and dairy products, they could exert significant competitive pressure on British producers if they get better access to the UK market.
  • Allocation of EU28 Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs): now that a UK-EU FTA has been reached, the likes of New Zealand are already highlighting issues with the proposed allocation of EU28 TRQs by the UK and the EU27, who essentially suggested in December 2018 to split the existing TRQs on the basis of historic trade.  New Zealand amongst others objected to this at the time and are now bringing this topic back to the agenda. This will need to be addressed at the WTO level in the coming months.

Given the extremely limited timeframe during which the UK-EU FTA was agreed, it is inevitable that a whole myriad of other issues will emerge once experts have had time to parse through the 2,000 pages of legal text and annexes.  Overall, the trade deal is historic and marks the beginning of a new era in the UK’s relationship with Europe.  However, as with trading relationships between other close neighbours (e.g. the US and Canada), the UK’s trading relationship with the EU is going to evolve and this will necessitate further negotiations in the future, both on the implementation and governance of the existing agreement, but potentially on developing new accords.  In this respect, we’ve not reached the end of the road on Brexit.  Whilst the topic might (mercifully) move down the agenda as we move forward, it will not disappear from the news.

Further information on the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, including the legal text, is available via: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agreements-reached-between-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-and-the-european-union

In the next few editions of Farming in Focus we will use our Model Farms’ budgets and forecasts to examine the implications of the FTA and changes in farm policy. 

If you are interested in getting a concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry, click on the link below for a 90-day free trial of Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin:

https://agribrief.co.uk/

 

 

 

Spotlight on the Path to Sustainable Farming

Defra finally released more details on future farm support in England on the 30th November.  Although earlier billed as a consultation, the ‘Path to Sustainable Farming’ document is actually simply a policy statement, with more consultations promised later.  As such, it provides rather less detail on some areas of the Agricultural Transition than we might have hoped.  The 60-page document can be found at; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agricultural-transition-plan-2021-to-2024

BPS Phase-Out

Most English farmers will be primarily concerned with how far and how fast the BPS is to be cut.  Only the reductions for the first four years have been announced.  This is due to the budget after 2024 not being known as the ‘Funding Guarantee’ runs out after that.  The table below sets out the figures that are known, and also our predictions for the final years (based on a simple arithmetic progression). 

Note that the figures shown are the deductions rather than the percentage being paid.  Also, a reminder that the bands work like Income Tax, so all BPS claimants get the lower deductions on their first £30,000 of claim.

The headline point is that at least half of the BPS will be removed by 2024.  These deductions are larger than we had thought likely for the early years of the Transition.  We had thought that, without ELM launched, Defra would not have a huge need to generate funding.   However, it seems that other policy measures (see below) will require significant funding.  For those clients who would like to see what this will mean to their BPS payment over the transition period, contact your consultant and they will be able to calculate this for you.

A reminder that from 2021, under simplifying the BPS, ‘Greening’ ends, the requirement to use all entitlements at least once in every two years has also been removed and cross border claims will no longer be treated as one ‘holding’.  Those with land in more than one region of the UK will now make separate claims.

Delinking, Lump Sum & Cross Compliance

Delinking will not now happen until 2024 (it was originally intended for 2022).  This is the breaking of the link between the payment of direct support and the requirement to occupy land.  Presumably, with the link in place, the system of entitlements will continue to operate from 2021 to 2023.

Cross-compliance will also remain in place until payments are de-linked.  The consultation states ‘When we delink Direct Payments, we will stop using cross-compliance as the basis for deregulation . . . ).

Despite the delay in delinking, Defra is still looking to offer lump-sum payments in 2022 as an exit scheme.  There will be a consultation on both lump-sum payments and delinking in early 2021.

ELM

The document devotes 19 pages to ELM and provides a little more detail than what we knew already.  The three tier architecture is confirmed with amended tier names;

  • Sustainable Farming Incentive: this is broad (and shallow) offer that should be accessible to all farms.  It is likely to have a menu of options and be managed online.  It could look similar to the previous Entry-Level Stewardship.  
  • Local Nature Recovery:  this will require more intensive management from farmers. It is likely that a whole-farm plan will have to be drawn up (possibly by accredited advisors).  The focus will be on rewarding farmers for positive management such as biodiversity, flood management, carbon storage, landscape heritage etc.  This will be the ‘core’ of ELM over the long-term.
  • Landscape Recovery:  this aims to get groups of landowners to work together to deliver widespread change.  The focus will be on large-scale woodland planting, peatland restoration and coastal habitats (e.g. salt marshes).

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) will open in 2022 – probably with only some elements.  It will focus on soils, IPM, and nutrient management.  What is learnt in 2022 and 2023 will inform the full launch in 2024 when further elements are added (including boundaries and tree management).  Initially it will only be available to those in receipt of BPS, including those already with a Countryside Stewardship agreement.  As it is piloted and then scaled up between 2021 and 2024, the aim is to expand the range of options on offer and explore making it available to a wider group of participants which could include smaller farms, horticulture and pig/poultry farms that do not currently receive Direct Payments.

The national pilot for ELM will be testing elements for both the first and second tiers but probably with a greater emphasis on the second – Local Nature Recovery (LNR).  Further details on this, and the ability to register an Expression of Interest in taking part in Pilots, should be available ‘early next year‘.   Applications to take part in the SFI pilot will be by June 2021 with agreements starting in October 2021.  The pilots for the LNR are due to commence in mid-2022.  In total, the Pilots are expected to involve 5,500 farmers.

The naming of the second tier as ‘Local Nature Recovery’ clearly points to the importance being given to Local Nature Recovery Strategies that are to be introduced under the Environment Act.  These need to be closely watched over the coming years.

The third tier, Landscape Recovery will be tested with 10 large-scale projects due to commence in 2022.  Invitations to take part in this will be made later in 2021.

Whilst all this piloting is going on the Countryside Stewardship CS) scheme will remain open to new applications.  The last application window will be in 2023 for a 1st January 2024 start date.  The scheme will be ‘simplified for 2021’.  Existing HLS and CS agreements that are coming to an end can be rolled-over until ELM begins.

Other Support

Various other new schemes are set out in the document;

Farming Investment Fund:  (from 2021 to 2026)  This is the ‘son of Countryside Productivity’.  This is due to open in ‘autumn 2021’.  Like the CPS there will be two tiers;

  • Farming Equipment and Technology Find: a fixed rate of grant for specified items with application online
  • Farming Transformation Fund: for high-value items.  A two-stage process with an EOI then full application

Farm Resilience Scheme: (from 2021 to 2024)   A pilot scheme is already running offering advice to farmers on how to cope with the changes ahead.  This will be built on.  The pilot ends in March and details of the new advice and support scheme will be published after that.

Farming In Protected Landscapes: (from 2021 to 2024)  This is effectively a scheme for upland areas.  It covers National Parks but also Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  There will be both farm-level projects including environmental payments and business support, and projects at community scale.  More details are promised in early 2021.

Slurry Investment Scheme: (from 2022 to 2025)  Grants will be available to help farmers invest in stores that must have at least 6-months of capacity and an impermeable cover.  Rates of grant are not yet set.

New Entrants Scheme: (from 2022 to 2024)  The scheme is still being designed, but it looks like funding is more likely to be for things such as matching services rather than direct grants to new entrants themselves.

Skills and Training: (from 2022 onwards)   Firstly, this will see an Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture set up that will be the professional body for farming.  Also, a set of standardised Key Performance Indicators for each sector will be produced, in conjunction with the AHDB to facilitate benchmarking.  In addition, there will be funding for Research and Development in agriculture under an Innovation and Research programme.

Animal Welfare: (from 2022 onwards)  Details of this funding stream are still being worked on.   However, the ‘Animal Health and Welfare Pathway’ will be designed during the course of 2021.  It will offer support for disease eradication programmes, capital grants to farmers for measures to increase animal welfare above the statutory baseline, and a new payment-by-results scheme (to be piloted in 2023)

Tree Health Scheme: (piloted from 2021, fully launched in 2024)  This will build on the Tree health grants under CS.

All in all, there is quite a lot to digest from the document.  We will be providing further information as it becomes available.  

We are conscious that the details of future farm support have been released rather piecemeal by the Government and have therefore put together a two page summary, outlining how BPS will be phased out over the next seven years and the funding streams which will be available during and after this transition.  This will be a ‘living’ document and it will be updated shortly to include this new information.   The summary can be found at https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ag-Policy-Summary-Oct-20-TAC.pdf 

If you are interested in getting a concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry, click on the link below for a 90-day free trial of Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin:

https://agribrief.co.uk/

 

 

 

Spotlight on the Transition to the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM)

Defra Secretary, George Eustice, has given more details of the transition to the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) in interviews and at the virtual Conservative Party Conference.  However, some of his statements have done more to muddy-the-waters rather than provide clarity.

It is clear ELM will have three tiers, with the recently announced Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme (see last month’s Spotlight) being the prototype for Tier 1.  This scheme will not be available until 2022 but will be one which most farmers should be able enter.  Mr Eustice outlined this as a way of being able to recoup some of the BPS money which will be lost as we go through the Agricultural Transition.  No details are available regarding the SFI scheme yet.

Also, in 2022 and 2023, the aim is to ‘drive-up participation in the Countryside Stewardship’.  The scheme will be simplified, and will be the ‘steppingstone’ to Tier 2 of ELMs; commitments are likely to be for 3, 5 and 10 years.  Ultimately Tier 2 of ELMs will depend on having a Land Management Plan for the farm which is expected be drawn-up between the land manager and an accredited advisor with a menu of options and payment rates.  It is this element which will be tested under the ELM pilots in 2021.

In addition, the intention is also to roll out more bespoke schemes, again in 2022/23, which require more complex change of land use, such as woodland creation and peatland restoration.  These would form the prototype for Tier 3.

The slightly confusing element is that Mr Eustice referred to a full launch of ELM in 2027 when these ‘prototype’ schemes would be consolidated.  This is at odds with previous statements that ELM would launch in ‘late 2024’.  It has been indicated in the past that not all elements of ELM would be ready until 2027, even if the scheme launched earlier (although it has never been clear what wouldn’t be ready and how you could launch an incomplete scheme).   It is not clear whether this is what Mr Eustice is referring to, or whether the timetable for ELM really has slipped to 2027.  The consultations on future policy due next month may provide more clarity.

We are conscious that the details of future farm support have been released rather piecemeal by the Government and have therefore put together a two page summary, outlining how BPS will be phased out over the next seven years and the funding streams which will be available during and after this transition.  This will be a ‘living’ document and will be updated when more information is released in the upcoming consultation.   The summary can be found at https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ag-Policy-Summary-Oct-20-TAC.pdf  

If you are interested in getting a concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry, click on the link below for a 90-day free trial of Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin:

https://agribrief.co.uk/

 

 

 

Spot Light: Update on Future Agricultural Support in England

Future Agricultural Support in England

The farming industry in England will have to wait a little longer to get more details on the Agricultural Transition.  A Defra consultation has been expected that will cover the ‘delinking’ of the BPS, lump sum payments, and deductions beyond 2021.  This was always billed as coming ‘in the autumn’ and we had hoped for September (it was originally planned before the end of 2019).  It now seems that it could be late October or November before it emerges.  This is unhelpful for those trying to plan future land occupation arrangements.  

The reason for the delay is that agricultural policy has become entangled in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Until there is certainty over the farm support budget, Defra is unable to make key decisions on the Agricultural Transition – such as what deductions will apply to the BPS after 2021.

Further consultations may come as part of a ‘package’ later in the autumn.  One seems set to be on Regulation and Enforcement.  A new regime will be required to replace Cross-compliance, which becomes ineffective once the BPS is delinked from land.  This is unlikely to see much of a reduction in the red-tape burden on farming as much of Cross-compliance is already law.  However, the way it is enforced and the administration will be different.  It also has linkages to ELM and animal welfare payments.  These will only pay farmers for going beyond the ‘regulatory baseline’.  Where that baseline is set is therefore quite important.

The final area that could be consulted on is the support schemes that aren’t either ELM or BPS.  This would cover programmes in areas such as productivity, animal health & welfare and farmer advice & training.  One new idea that seems to be gaining ground in Government is a new scheme called the ‘Sustainable Farming Incentive’.  Details are sketchy at present, but the idea appears to be for an interim scheme to run alongside Countryside Stewardship (CS) until such time as ELM is fully launched (2024).   The SFI would cover areas that will be included in ELM, such as soil health and emissions, that are not well supported under CS.  It would seem logical that the SFI would close when ELM is fully operational, although some reports have suggested it would continue to operate ‘alongside’ ELM.  There may be more detail in the upcoming consultations. 

In terms of ELM itself, the national Pilot Scheme is meant to open for Expressions of Interest (EOI) in March 2021 with applications commencing in April.  Presumably, in order to express an interest, some details of the pilot scheme will need to be published beforehand – perhaps February?  Whilst it is always possible for the scheme to alter between the Pilot stage and its full roll-out in 2024, this will at least give some indication of what ELM will look like in areas such as options, management requirements and payment levels.

If you are interested in getting a concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry, click on the link below for a 90-day free trial of Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin:

https://agribrief.co.uk/

 

 

Spot Light on Harvest Progress & Autumn Plantings

Harvest Progress

Normally at this time of year, the lion’s share of harvest is completed.  But with intermittent rain preventing significant progress in many parts and a considerable proportion of crops being spring sown, there is still ample to do.  Rather inevitably, it has been uneven, more so than usual.  In parts of the South and East some might have all-but finished.  Further into the Midlands, West, North and Scotland, it is only just starting.

Growers on lighter soils appear to have experienced greater yield reductions, suggesting the spring drought was more damaging to crops than the winter rains were; at least for those that made it through to harvest at all.  On the whole, many growers have a higher winter wheat yield than they thought likely back in February before the rain stopped, but many fields are patchy.  Most still agree yields will not reach the 5-year average.

Oilseed rape has been overwhelmingly poor and most opinions canvassed suggest a national yield of perhaps 2.5t per Ha will be as good as it gets.  The official yield will be affected by how much land farmers decided to re-classify as fallow or was re-drilled in the spring.  Plenty of farms drilled 120% of their farm this year; their failed OSR area eventually harvesting a crop of beans or spring oats.

Autumn Drilling

So, what are growers going to do this Autumn?  Most people are expecting a serious decline in the OSR cropped area.  However, the harvested area of OSR might actually increase next year.  We estimate a 25% write-off from this year’s OSR crop that did not reach harvest.  If next year, the percentage written off falls to a more typical 7%, then a decline in planted area from our estimate of 495,000 hectares in 2019 to a possible 410,000 this autumn would still leave more harvested winter OSR.

 

Simply replacing OSR with another break crop may not solve the problem.  Whilst crops such as pulses provide a break from cereals and offer soil and following-crop benefits, they might not demonstrate such high potential gross margins and could also become squashed in the rotation, affecting their long-term yields.

Some farmers are increasingly collaborating with nearby dairy or AD farmers to offer wholecrop rye, grass fields, as well as other cereals.  Interestingly, the harsh winter of 2012 led many cereal farmers to grow (spring) oats.  Their positive outcome meant the oat area has been higher than pre-2012 every year apart from one.  A surge in oat area this year too, might see something similar happen – depending on market demand.  Spring barley area has also been on an upwards trend with possibly a million hectares being harvested in the current year.  The gradual rise of spring crops can also be seen by a slow decline in winter cropping including wheat which, until 2008, topped 2 million hectares on a few occasions, and now averages 1.8 million.

If you are interested in getting a concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry, click on the link below for a 90-day free trial of Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin:

https://agribrief.co.uk/