Farming in Focus InBrief – May 2020

  • Andersons’ consultants are continuing to support their clients during the pandemic. If you require any support, please contact them, their details can be found at the end of this Briefing.
  • England has joined Wales in extending the 2020 BPS application deadline to 15th June.  However, in both countries, land must be at the claimant’s disposal on 15th May and the entitlement transfer deadline is also 15th May.  The period for amending claims without penalty moves to 30th June with an absolute deadline of final submission of applications and claims (but with penalties) of the 10th July.
  • In England, the annual revenue claim deadline date for Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship has also been extended by a month to 15th June.  However, new Countryside Stewardship applications for 1st January 2021 start date remain 1st May and 31st July for Higher and Mid-Tier respectively.
  • The next round of the Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme will open from 8th – 19th June in England.  This scheme allows those planting woodlands to sell carbon credits to the Government at a guaranteed price up to 2055.
  • The expression of interest window for Glastir Woodland Creation is now open and will close on 12th June.  Also in Wales, Farming Connect will be opening the next application round for accredited courses on 9th May, this will close on 26th June. The Welsh Government has also announced, the claim deadline for the Glastir Small Grants – Landscape and Pollinators 2019, has been extended until 30th September 2020. 
  • The Government has stated that there will be no extension to the end of the Brexit Transition Period beyond 31st December 2020.  Speaking on the 16th April a Government spokesman stated “we will not ask to extend the Transition.  And, if the EU asks, we will say no.  Extending the Transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty, and delay the moment of control of our borders.”  The negotiations themselves restarted on the 15th April by videoconference.  There is still wide divergence between the sides as the deadline for extending the Transition Period (30th June) looms.
  • The Government has launched a new website, ‘Pick for Britain’ aimed at recruiting British workers for harvesting and processing roles, mainly in the horticulture sector. The aim is to encourage workers on furlough, students and others to fill the estimated 80,000 seasonal fruit and veg vacancies through the summer months.  The site can be found at – https://pickforbritain.org.uk/.  Although there has been significant initial interest from potential workers, this seems not to have yet translated into large numbers of people on farm.  The expectations of employees and employers appear to be mismatched.  Workers are often discouraged by the location of jobs, conditions and pay.  Employers seem dubious about the skills and motivation of UK staff and would prefer their traditional East-European workers. 
  • The Government has produced its key findings from the review of the AHDB.  Its response suggests the levy board’s activities should be structured around ‘market development’ and ‘improving farm performance’.  Levy payers should also be allowed to vote on a 5 year plan for each sector.
  • The Welsh Government has published draft legislation that would make the whole country a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ).  This would impose new restrictions on the storage and spreading of slurry, manure and nitrogen fertiliser, including closed periods for applications.
  • Sales of fungicides containing the active ingredient epoxiconazole will end on 31st October 2020.  Product already on farm can continue to be used until 31st October 2021.

Consultants’ Contact Details

  • Joe Scarratt – 07956 870263 jscarratt@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • George Cook – 07836 707360 gcook@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • Oliver Hall – 07815 881094 ohall@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • Tony Evans – 07970 731643 tevans@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • David Thomas (Wales) – 07850 224524 dthomas@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • Edward Calcott – 07827 317672 ecalcott@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • Jonathan Hughes – 07892 689544 jhughes@theandersonscentre.co.uk
  • Jake Armstrong-Frost – 07931 610398 jarmstrongfrost@theandersonscentre.co.uk

Land Use: Policies for Net Zero

The way land is used in the UK will have to see a ‘transformation’ if the country is to meet its target of Net Zero emissions by 2050. This is the conclusion of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the Government’s independent advisors on climate change, in their first ever report into land use which was published on the 23rd January. As the dominant user of land in the British Isles, farming would be at the forefront of these changes.

The key recommendations in the report for farming, and the wider food sector and consumers are;

  • Low-carbon Farming Practices: such as controlled release fertilisers, improving livestock health, and slurry management
  • Afforestation and Agro-forestry: increasing UK forestry cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050 by planting around 30,000 hectares or more of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year.  In addition, 2% of the agricultural area should be devoted to agro-forestry (planting trees, whilst maintaining the agricultural use).  Additional hedgerow planting is also recommended.
  • Peatlands:  restoring at least 50% of upland peat and 25% of lowland peat.  This equates to 7% of the UK’s land area.  Although there might be some agricultural production, it is likely to be very low intensity grazing at best.
  • Bio-energy Crops:  increase the growing of energy crops by around 23,000 hectares each year so that by 2050 they comprise 3% of total land use.  The report states that energy crops are faster growing than new woodland, but also cautions that the negative impacts of energy crops need to be managed.
  • Reducing Meat and Milk Consumption: (i.e. beef, lamb and dairy) by at least 20% per person.  The report implicitly recognises that this might be the most contentious recommendation.  It states that such a reduction would bring consumption within healthy eating guidelines, and can drive sufficient release of land to support the proposed changes in tree planting and bioenergy crops.  It calculates that, alongside expected population growth, it requires around a 10% reduction in cattle and sheep numbers by 2050 compared with 2017 levels.  Then the report points out that this compares with a reduction of around 20% in numbers over the past two decades.
  • Reducing Food Waste: the 13.6m tonnes of food waste produced annually should be reduced by 20%

In terms of how to achieve this shift, the report suggests there should be a mix of legislation, public funding and better information, advice and training.  With regards to legislation, this might include regulating enteric fermentation from livestock and steps such as a change in the diet of cattle to reduce methane emissions.  The report suggests public funding should be used to incentivise farmers to plant trees and take up lower-carbon farming practices as well as for non-carbon benefits such as helping to prevent floods and for recreational purposes.  In respect of changing diets, it suggests the first stage should be relatively ‘soft’ through persuading consumers and the wider food chain to make changes.  A second stage of regulation or pricing needs to be considered if this does not work.

The report recognises reducing emissions should not be done by producing less food in the UK and increasing imports, it goes on to state that the UK is a ‘relatively low-greenhouse gas producer of ruminant meat’.  The report outlines methane emissions are a key factor for the farming sector (unlike most other sectors, where CO2 is the biggest issue).  It also addresses how methane emissions are assessed, and equated to CO2 – there is increasing debate on this subject.

Methane has a far greater global warming effect than CO2.  However, CO2 emissions raise the concentrations in the atmosphere for thousands of years, whilst methane has mostly disappeared after approximately 12 years.  It is argued methane-induced warming is dependent on whether the emissions are sustained or new emissions.  Like much in the climate change sphere, it seems the measurement and statistics are open to interpretation, without an agreed methodology.  This may provide some comfort to the livestock sector that it is not as bad as it has been painted.  However, it would be dangerous to cling to this too closely as a reason to continue unchanged.  Society will expect farming to do its bit and many of the policies outlined in the CCC report will be part of that change.