Spotlight on the Sustainable Farming Incentive

Defra has released further information on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) for 2022. It is now expected to open for applications in June and then remain open with no closing date. This is to allow those interested to apply at a time to suit. However, Defra has stated that, if it is necessary to close applications, it will give six weeks’ notice. The information is included in a ‘collection’ of webpages which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sustainable-farming-incentive-guidance.

Below is a summary of the key points:

  • Agreements will be for three years. Initially it will only be open those businesses which are eligible for the BPS – the business (SBI) must have at least 5 Ha of eligible land and 5 or more BPS entitlements on 16th May 2022 – but there is no requirement to have made a claim.
  • The applicant must have ‘management’ control of the land for three years e.g. own the land or have a tenancy over it
  • Payment will be made quarterly in arrears i.e. the first payment will be made three months after the agreement commences
  • The Standards will not include funding for capital items in 2022. But it is possible to apply for existing funding for capital items for parcels included in an agreement, such as Countryside Stewardship capital grants.
  • In the future, SFI will include capital items funding to help complete the actions in the standards
  • Applications will be online via the Rural Payments Service. Prospective applicants are encouraged to ensure their digital maps are up-to-date, including land cover (certain land covers will be eligible for each standard) and available area. With the application window opening after BPS, in most cases these should already have been checked
  • Certain changes can be requested to an agreement. It will be possible to upgrade an agreement annually to:
    • add more Standards as they become available
    • add more land, including land coming out of Countryside Stewardship
    • increase Levels within Standards already in an SFI agreement
    • it will not be possible to reduce the Levels or land area, except under very limited and specific circumstances
    • it will not usually be possible to transfer an SFI agreement to another person
  • You do not need to have an SFI Standards agreement to be eligible to apply for the SFI Annual Health and Welfare Review.

Below is a summary of payments. The Moorland Standard payment has been increased, fairly significantly, since the previous announcements. Those with common land entered into an SFI agreement will receive an additional £6.15 per Ha. Payments for the other standards, remain the same:

Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) 2022 

Source: Defra (as at March 2022)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Impact of Cost Inflation

It is hugely difficult to budget in any farming sector with such large and sudden changes in prices and costs.  However, we have produced some updated figures for our Friesian Farm model ahead of the Dairy Tech show on the 7th April.  And with such significant rises in costs we have also revisited our Loam Farm model budget.  The figures are summarised in the tables below.

For Friesian Farm, it can be seen that the 2021/22 year just ending was profitable for the farm as milk prices increased and costs, whilst rising, had not yet hit current levels.  The upcoming 2022/23 year shows the massive increase in the cost of production.  Although the budgeted milk price is also moving up strongly, it results in a margin from production only just above break-even levels and the worst for a few years.

Friesian Farm is a notional 210 cow business.  It has been used to track the fortunes of British dairy farming for well over a decade.  It has a year-round calving system, like most of the UK industry, but it is trying to maximise yield from forage.  The farm comprises 130 hectares (of which 60 hectares are rented on an FBT).  The proprietor provides labour along with one full time worker (plus casual/relief).  The table above shows the farm’s actual results for the two previous milk years (April to March), an estimate for the current 2021/22 year then a forecast for 2022/23.  

The situation is similar for Loam Farm.  The table below shows the results for harvest years 2020 and 2021, a provisional figure for 2022 and a forecast for 2023.  For harvest 2022 fertiliser was purchased the previous summer, i.e. before the recent price hikes and therefore shows spectacular profits for the year.  For harvest 2023, the significant increase in variable costs can clearly be seen, together with fuel costs in the overheads.  Meaning the margin from production is negative.  The fall in BPS is mitigated by involvement in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Loam Farm is a notional 600 hectare business that has been used since 1991 to track the fortunes of British combinable cropping farms.  It is partly owned and partly rented and is based on real-life data. It has 1 full-time worker and a harvest casual labourer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Markets Following Russia’s Invasion

World politics have been balancing on a knife edge throughout February.  On the morning of 24th February 2022, that balance was firmly tipped.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represents the biggest political shock to markets in a long time. The ramification for world agricultural markets is significant.

Russia and Ukraine account for more than 28% of world wheat exports, as such developments in the conflict will have large ramifications for prices.  Furthermore, Ukrainian crop production (wheat, barley, and sunflowers) is largely focused in the East of Ukraine, the current epicentre of the conflict.  The conflict in Ukraine will be the biggest shock to prices, outweighing all other fundamentals.  As the conflict in Ukraine continues, the value of commodities has risen considerably. On Monday 7th March UK feed wheat futures (May-22) closed at £303 per tonne, a rise of almost £68 from 23rd February, the day before the invasion began. While prices have risen, daily movements have been volatile.

It is not just wheat, Ukraine and Russia account for 10% of global oilseed production (rapeseed, soybeans, sunflower).  The main oilseed grown in the Black Sea region is sunflowers; Ukraine accounts for about 30% of global sunflower seed production with the optimal sowing season about 8-9 weeks from now.  If this is compromised, this will have an impact on global vegetable oil prices and in turn rapeseed into the 2022/23 marketing year.

As well as the large rises in output prices as a result of the conflict, input prices are equally inflated. Russia is a key producer of fertiliser and exporter of fuels. The price of fuel is likely to stay inflated with the UK and US governments announcing, on 8th March, their intention to ban Russian oil imports. The UK ban will be phased; Russian supplies of fossil fuels account for 8% of UK imports.

ANDERSONS NEWS RELEASE – WEBINARS 2021

ANDERSONS WEBINARS 2021

Brexit: It’s Just the Start

The farming industry breathed a collective sigh of relief when the UK and EU signed their 11th-hour trade agreement.  However, those in the agricultural sector who believe that trade issues have been put-to-bed for the foreseeable future are likely to be disappointed.  Now that the UK has left the EU, the industry will arguably have to keep a closer eye on trade policy, not least to ensure that the sector’s position is protected when deals are being done.  This is the message from Andersons the Farm Business Consultants.

Firstly, the UK/EU ‘Trade and Cooperation Agreement’ (TCA), even at 1,246 pages, is not the final word on trade with the European Union.  The next few months will see how the complex provisions of the deal in areas such as Rules of Origin, Customs and Checks impact on trade in practice.  Already problems have been seen, especially regarding Northern Ireland.  And this is when trade flows have been quieter than usual as a result of previous stockpiling.  The TCA does not cover services (around 80% of the UK economy), including the key sector of financial services.   There are also unresolved questions on data sharing, and some parts of the deal, such as fisheries, come up for review after five years.  Therefore, perhaps after a brief pause, there is likely to be continuous ongoing negotiations with the EU on these issues.  The danger for farming is that it might get drawn into these negotiations as ‘leverage’.

The TCA also includes Level-Playing-Field provisions to uphold existing standards in areas such as environmental standards and labour law.  Any significant undercutting by one side could lead to retaliatory tariffs by the other – with farm goods likely to be a key target for any such tariffs.  How the level-playing-field rules are going to work in practice is very unclear.  For example, if the UK were to authorise GM crops, or at least gene-edited crops, would the EU see this as a reduction in ‘environmental standards’.  The scope for arguments seems huge.

The second main area of concern is trade deals with other countries or trading blocks.  The TCA was largely about protecting what was already in place  –  i.e. the significant trade between the UK and the EU.  Therefore, the agreement largely preserves the status quo and has had little effect (so far) on markets.  Any new deals the UK signs with other countries will see a change in the trading environment – and an effect on prices.

Much of the focus in this area has been on the US and the potential clash of production standards with the famous chlorinated chicken and hormone beef.  A deal with the UK is unlikely to be top of Joe Biden’s to-do list in the short-term.  Deals with Australia and New Zealand are perhaps more likely in the short-term and, arguably, could have a bigger impact on our farm markets – especially in the livestock sectors.  Free trade agreements with these two nations are seen by the UK Government as a prelude to the UK joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  Further down the line, the UK is almost certain to explore deals with other agricultural ‘powerhouses’ such as Mercosur, which includes Brazil, and Argentina.

The danger for farming in all of these potential deals is that the UK Government may be willing to trade access to our agricultural markets for gains for our exporters elsewhere in areas such as aerospace, financial services, medicines etc.  The UK farming industry needs to ensure it is not made a sacrificial lamb.

The final area concerns tariffs on food imports generally.  For those countries we do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with, the level of tariff protection offered by the new UK Global Tariff (UKGT) is very similar to that which we enjoyed in the EU.  However, the UKGT is only ‘temporary’ and could be easily changed.  If the UK economy enters a post-Covid recession, might the Government be tempted to move to a ‘cheap food’ policy and lower some of these tariffs?

In summary, trade matters will continue to be important for the farming sector for years to come.

Andersons is running two Webinars on the 11th February looking at trade matters in more detail along with farm profitability and future agricultural policy.  For more information, please go to https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/webinars/

Ends

 

No of words 725
Author Richard King
Date 22nd January 2021

This news release has been sent from The Andersons Centre, Old Bell House, 2 Nottingham Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 1NW.  For further information please contact Richard King on 07977 191 427.  

Impact of Brexit on Scottish and UK Agriculture

We recently completed a study on behalf of the Scottish Government to assess the impacts of different potential Brexit outcomes beyond the end of the EU transition period on key Scottish agricultural sectors. The work combines trade-model and farm-level analysis supplemented by industry interviews and desk-based research. The report is available by clicking here.

The study has quantified the impact of Brexit on selected Scottish and UK agricultural sectors namely: cereals (wheat and barley); livestock (dairy, beef and sheep); and horticulture (potatoes, cauliflower/broccoli and strawberries). This has been done using two scenarios, a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and a No Trade Deal (No Deal) versus the Baseline of the UK continuing as an EU Member State. The research has been undertaken using a combination of Agmemod, a partial equilibrium economic model, desk-based research and industry interviews.

Assessments were also undertaken on the impact of tariffs, non-tariff measures (NTMs) and tariff rate quotas (TRQs) on future UK-EU trade patterns. These served as inputs to the Agmemod modelling which was undertaken with support from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) to assess Brexit impacts on wheat, barley, beef, sheepmeat and the dairy sector. These modelling results were then used in conjunction with additional analyses on horticulture to ascertain the impact of Brexit on UK and Scottish agricultural output and farm-level performance in Scotland.

A PDF version of the Summary Report is available via: https://www.gov.scot/publications/analysis-brexit-scenario-impacts-scottish-agricultural-sectors/

Spot Light on BPS Transition and Autumn Lettings

Farmers and their advisors in England need to be particularly careful this autumn, as the way agreements are structured could have implications for who gets support (BPS) for the whole Agricultural Transition period through to 2027.

Agricultural Transition

We do know direct support (the BPS) will be phased-out from 2021 to 2027 (Agricultural Transition) and replaced by the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, together with other schemes to help increase farm productivity, animal welfare and support for Producer Organisations.  There has been quite a lot of lobbying to delay the start of the Transition by one year, but Defra appear to be resisting this.  This will mean in 2021 we expect to have a direct payment scheme similar to the current BPS (without Greening) but payments will be reduced as follows;

Currently we only know the deductions for 2021.  It is hoped the consultation later in the year may shed some light on future % reductions.  Our view is that as the ELM scheme is not due to be launched until late 2024, the deductions in the first few years could be relatively low.  These could then increase more sharply as funds are redirected/required for the ELM scheme later in the Agricultural Transition.

De-Linking

This is a mechanism that breaks the link between receiving support and occupying agricultural land.  Once support is de-linked a farmer could double the size of their holding or stop farming completely – they would still get the same future stream of income tapering-off to 2027.  It effectively gives the claiming business a right to the future support.  The key point is that it will be based on what the claimant received in a ‘reference year’ (or years).  The reference year is not yet known and this will determine who gets the support through to 2027.  De-linking is an option in the Ag Bill, but the indications are that it will happen (Ministers seem keen).  However, the legislation states that it cannot happen before the 2022 claim year.  So we are expecting the 2021 scheme structure to be similar (or the same) as the 2020 scheme year with entitlements, which presumably can be traded.  

The closer the reference year is to de-linking the less ‘problems’ there will be due to changes in business structures or land occupation.  It would therefore seem logical for it to be 2021, but earlier dates or even a range of dates is possible.  There is likely to be force majeure and business change provisions similar to those which operated when the Basic Payment was introduced – but details of these are also unknown.  Any Tenancy Agreements written pre-2019 are unlikely to have any clauses in them which deal with de-linked payments.  If a Tenant has made a BPS claim which included the reference year, the right to the future income stream could become vested in the Tenant.  If the Agreement is brought to an end during the Agricultural Transition the Tenant could still have the right to receive the de-linked income stream and the land may not have any ‘support’ for the incoming Tenant.  Of course the incoming Tenant may have some ‘support’ to ‘bring’ with him, and so we can already see the problems with what rent level can be asked or what price Tenant’s will be prepared to pay – every situation could be different.

New Agreements this autumn will need to ensure they contain clauses to try and protect the Landlord’s position in case 2021 is the reference year, so that he/she can offer the right to receive future support along with the land for incoming Tenants.  If 2019 or 2020 turns out to be the reference year, then it may already be too late.

Lump-Sum

This must not be confused or ‘bundled-up’ with de-linking.  It is the idea that the future stream of income from de-linked payments is rolled-up into one single payment.  But it is separate from de-linking and is only an option in the Agriculture Bill; it may not be introduced in 2022, it may not be available to everyone, it may not even be introduced at all.  More information is (again) expected in the upcoming consultation.  The idea is that it could be used as a retirement sum or allows for investments to be made.  If it is introduced, it may not be available to everyone at the same time, but there might be an age threshold for example.  For those Agreements which come to an end within the Agricultural Transition, the Tenant could potentially leave with a de-linked lump-sum.

Environmental Land Management

Once the BPS has been phased out, the main support for farmers will be the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. But in a Landlord and Tenant situation or Contract Farming Agreement how is it going to be dealt with? This looks like an area where there will have to be a lot of ‘sorting out’ over the next 5-10 years as a new normal gets established.  It certainly does not look like it is going to be as simple as the BPS.

For AHAs and existing long-term (whole farm?) FBTs it will likely be down to the tenant to decide whether to enter or not.  But the ability to pick up ELM payments will presumably be part of the earnings potential of the holding and would therefore come into consideration of the rent.  This might become a contentious area in rent reviews in the future – what if the Tenant had entered into a low-level, low income, ELM agreement, but the Landlord thought that he/she should have gone for a higher-paying one and be paying more rent?

For new/short term FBTs, we might well see situations where the Landlord wants to be the claimant, both so that they are in control of what happens and so they are guaranteed the income.  Of course, it depends on the detailed ELM rules – will Landlords even be able to apply if the land is let out?   The land would therefore be let ‘naked’ without any support and the rent would reflect this.

Any tenancy agreement would have to bind the Tenant to adhere to the ELM requirements – as has been done in the past for ES / CS agreements etc.  But this is not always the best approach, as the Tenant (the actual land manager) has not got any financial stake in the ELM agreement.  This might become more of an issue if the payment methods become more sophisticated over time – e.g. payment by results, reverse auctions etc.  Perhaps some revenue-sharing model would be the answer – but with the Landlord remaining the agreement holder?

There are also Contract Farming Agreements (CFAs) to consider.  There have been differing opinions in the past on whether BPS has been included in the ‘pot’ or not.  Often agri-environmental payments have been kept out of agreements and remain with the farmer (land provider).  Will ELM payments go in the pot or not?  Perhaps not – which might have an effect on first charges and divisible surpluses in some cases.  But where the ELM scheme requires a sophisticated on-the-ground management, it might have to go into the agreement to get buy-in from the contractor.

Unfortunately, we are posing more questions than answers, but hopefully this article highlights key areas which will need to be kept abreast of over the coming months, especially ahead of autumn lettings.  The consultation in the autumn should help to answer a few questions as we adjust to the new arrangements over the next 5-10 years.

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 Brexit & Trade Negotiations

Brexit

Whilst multiple rounds of negotiations have taken place, talks with the EU have been stalling due to impasses on several key issues.  These include governance (role of the European Court of Justice), ‘level playing-field’ issues, fisheries, criminal and judicial cooperation as well as the implementation of the Irish Protocol.  On 15th June, the Prime Minister and the EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, held talks where they agreed to intensify negotiations (to be held on a weekly rather than fortnightly basis) in a bid to secure an agreement.  Most analysts now believe that it will be October before a deal is likely to emerge. Due to the time required for EU members to ratify any deal, negotiations cannot really continue right up to the December deadline.

Transition Period Extension

The deadline for extending the Transition Period beyond 31st December this year has passed with a whimper rather than a bang.  The UK Government made it clear it would not ask for an extension before the 1st July cut-off.  The EU saw little point in asking for one from its side as it simply provides an opportunity for the UK to say ‘no’.

Other Trade Deals

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is also conducting talks on Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs) with a number of other countries;

  • talks with the US have already started. There is little substantive to report as yet. The key issue in terms of agri-food is threat posed by permitting imports from the US which do not meet the standards that British farmers currently adhere to.
  • negotiations with Japan have commenced and, given that Japan recently concluded an FTA with the EU (which at the time included the UK), it is anticipated that talks should be wrapped up quickly.  The UK already exports significant volumes of wheat and barley to Japan.  Export opportunities also exist for products such as whisky.
  • the UK has formally announced its objectives for the upcoming trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.  Agriculture is likely to feature prominently, especially given the historical trading relationships which existed before the UK joined the EEC. Increased access for beef, lamb, dairy and horticultural products will be the key asks from Australia and New Zealand.
  • the UK has reaffirmed its interest in becoming a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which is one of the world’s largest free trade areas, accounting for 13% of global GDP in 2018.  The CPTPP includes Japan, Australia and New Zealand and deals with these countries are seen as a step towards joining this larger trade bloc, which also includes Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • with the UK leaving the EU, it is seeking to replace the FTAs which the EU had agreed with other countries whilst the UK was still a Member State.  To this end, it has been pursuing Continuity Agreements.  To date, agreements have been concluded with approximately 50 countries, including Switzerland, South Korea, Chile and South Africa.  Negotiations are ongoing with 16 others, including Canada, Mexico and the Ukraine.  Such rollover agreements are anticipated to have a limited impact on agri-food as they are largely seeking to replace existing FTAs.

Whilst pursuing trade deals around the world is a crucial aspect of the UK’s independent trade policy, one must not lose sight of the fact that exports to the EU (£300 billion) accounts for 43% of total UK exports.  Therefore, it is hoped that securing a comprehensive FTA with the EU remains the priority of the UK Government.

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/.