From long-awaited government schemes and soaring milk sales to stormy weather and ‘friendly language’, this month’s Rural View News in Brief mops up some of the key headlines farmers and landowners may have missed over the past few weeks. 

Lump sum exit scheme: retirement incentive announced

The consultation is over, and Defra has officially given the green light to its scheme to incentivise farmers in England to retire. The Lump Sum Exit Scheme will be based on a payment worth 2.35 times the average of the applicant’s last three BPS claims but will be capped at £100,000. The scheme aims to enable those who wish to retire or leave the industry early to do so in an organised way, while helping create opportunities for the next generation. Applications will be open between April and September this year. Carter Jonas Partner James Bradley has analysed how the scheme will look to tenant farmers. Read what he has to say here.

Countryside Stewardship scheme 2023 opens…

Farmers taking measures to improve the environment are encouraged to apply for Countryside Stewardship 2023 agreements to reward their efforts. Rates have increased by an average of 30% in a bid to increase applications for the scheme, which has been undersubscribed since its launch in 2015. Simplifications should make it easier for farmers to apply and changes have broadened the scope. Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: "We want to incentivise farmers to enhance the natural environment alongside sustainable food production – from restoring wildlife habitats and woodland management, to preserving the character of our beautiful countryside."

…and there’s more for organic farmers 

Organic farmers entering new Countryside Stewardship schemes will benefit from a boost in payments. Increases of between 46% and 500% will allow farmers to earn as much as six times as much from previous government incentives. The Soil Association Certification’s annual organic report revealed the market has risen by 23% since 2019, but the amount of organic land has remained roughly the same, rising by just 0.8%. Adrian Steele, Soil Association Organic Sector Advisor, said: “The changes to farm policy and payments post-Brexit are causing lots of concern for farmers. But it is clear is that there are big opportunities for nature-friendly farming, and organic is set to receive renewed government support."

Dairy sales soar

Supermarket sales of all dairy products continue to perform well post-pandemic; AHDB analysis reveals that an additional 302 million litres of milk was purchased last year compared to 2019. Cheese also performed well, with volumes up by 13.2% compared to 2019. Cheddar alone was up 11% and accounted for 49% of total volume. AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Heath said: “As a staple product, dairy will continue to do well in 2022, despite growth slowing last year as restrictions were eased. We can see that people in the UK continue to enjoy dairy, with 77% of consumers saying dairy is a vital part of their everyday food and 99.5% of households shopped for dairy products every month in 2021.”

Countryside Code updated

An updated version of the Countryside Code has been circulated specifically to help farmers deal with anti-social behaviour and trespassing. Footfall in the countryside has continued to rise since the start of the pandemic, bringing with it a rise in incidents such as sheep worrying and fly tipping. The updated Code also reminds farmers of their responsibilities, specifically maintaining rights of way, putting ‘friendly language’ on signs and using machinery safely in public safely. CLA President Mark Tufnell said: “Rather than pitting rural communities and visitors against each other, the guidance unites them by focusing on a shared appreciation of our countryside."

Storms impact rural businesses

NFU Mutual received more than 1,000 claims from farmers and rural businesses in the wake of storms Malik and Corrie at the end of January. Strong winds caused extensive damage, particularly in the North East of England and Scotland. Many of the rural properties affected were already reeling from the impact of Storm Arwen in November 2021, which resulted in more than 7,000 claims. Jon Bird, Property Claims Manager at NFU Mutual, said: “This level of damage goes to show that no storm should be underestimated."

Rural View

Our thoughts and insights on the key issues and opportunities within farming and rural businesses.