In her latest monthly column, Jenni Bartram, a consultant solicitor at Harrowells Solicitors, looks at some of the challenges facing farmers

ONE of the difficulties of farming in the British Isles has always been our mercurial weather and the Greening Provisions, relating to two or three diverse crops, could be testing at times - especially so over the last 12 months.

A very wet autumn led to heavy floods, waterlogged fields and, for some, failed crops. This was followed by February, which was one of the wettest on record, meaning the usual rescue of drilling spring crops was not generally available.

All in all, an arable farmer’s nightmare and with a kick-on effect into other farming industry sectors. The NFU and CLA and other industry representatives lobbied hard in Parliament and secured a derogation in England so the two or three crop rule (depending on your acreage) would not apply for the year. There was also assistance made available to farmers who had suffered most harshly from flooding.

Then the “plague” arrived in the guise of Covid-19 and we saw disruption to food supply chains as food retailers coped with panic buying and food wholesalers with a sharp drop in demand from the hospitality sector.

All this formed a backdrop to efforts to encourage the Government to revise the Agriculture Bill to ensure sufficient focus on food security.

Covid-19 related disruption has also heightened anxiety about the transition from the BPS Payments regime to the new ELMS system and how the new mid and high tier Country Stewardship Schemes fitted into that process.

Defra has, at least, confirmed those in the Stewardship schemes will not be disadvantaged which may mean that the stewardship schemes can be terminated without penalty if the ELMS system is more attractive or better suited to the farming enterprise concerned when they become available in 2024.

So now for the locusts. NFU Mutual has confirmed that in 2019 farm thefts cost the industry £54m and have increased by nine percent compared to the previous year. Lockdown is also likely to see those figures increase with livestock being a regular target.

At the same time, supermarkets are being lobbied to reduce meat and dairy sales because of environmental and health concerns and, without clear plans for the support of UK food producers, represents another aspect of uncertainty.

Will the proposed new planning deregulation assist at all? While generally welcomed by the industry and its advisers, there will be considerable attempts to block or amend the proposals in Parliament and no doubt nothing will be as straight forward as it sounds.

So there is quite a maze to work through in coming months and years, but at least your land agents’ and our door is open again and we look forward to solving some of those issues with you.

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