Sustainable Farming Needs Profitable Farms

So COP26 has been and gone with all the focus being on sustainable farming which was totally focused on reducing our carbon footprint to net zero. Farmers and Landowners have their part to play and I admire the NFU’s stance of achieving net zero in farming by 2040.

It was noticeable during COP26 that there was no mention of ensuring farming remained profitable and therefore sustainable so they could afford to invest in the methods and practices that will help achieve the ultimate goal.  This could be as a result of profit being a dirty word in some circles, but in my opinion it is the root of ensuring sustainable farming.  A definition of profit in any text book is “management and investment income”.  As any pig farmer will tell you at the moment, farming requires profit not just to reward the management, but to provide the investment necessary to improve on outdated practices and invest in the future for example by planting up area of woodland.  Without profit there is no investment or progress.

It is exactly one year since DEFRA launched “The Path to Sustainable Farming” which was the agricultural transition plan from 2021 o 2024.  One of the pillars of this scheme is the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund, and the window is currently open for applications for grants towards the purchase of equipment.  I still maintain that nobody enters into such applications without earning the profit to be able to make that investment or the anticipation of profit by a level of investment.

Another strand of The Path to Sustainable Farming is to introduce the environmental land management ( ELMS) approach to agri-environment schemes through pilots and tests from 2021 to 2024.   This includes the early roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive from 2022. After a pilot scheme with very low uptake, payment rates have now been revised for applications next year, but remain at very modest levels and do nothing to instill certainty into the shifting sands.

In the meantime BPS payments are beginning to arrive with reductions already in place, and further significant reductions planned over the next three years and beyond.  Whilst corn is currently being sold on the back of modest fertiliser input costs, and livestock is currently being sold on the back of previous modest prices for grain, fast forward one year when inputs of fertiliser look to be at high prices and inputs of feed look to be at high prices and farmers will be taking a close look at how agricultural support and particularly the sustainable farming incentive will be helping them replace their Basic Payment reductions.

The phasing out of Basic Payment and replacement with Environmental Land Management Schemes is an admirable objective but to take away the current scheme without having developed the new scheme creates massive uncertainty and removes any incentive to invest in sustainable farming and net zero particularly if you cannot be certain of surviving until 2040.   My message to DEFRA is simple: consult with a group of progressive farmers who understand the need for profitable agriculture and environmental outcomes and deliver a scheme that will work on the ground, and provide a future certainty that we are currently craving.



  • Property Search


Latest News

Stephensons Rural LLP are associated with: