There was good news for farmers over the summer with an announcement from Defra that is it making £2.6m available in the region to help them adapt to changes in the agricultural landscape due to Brexit, climate change and changing land use needs.
The Future Farming Resilience Programme was first piloted in 2020 in response to the phased reduction of EU-funded Direct Payments following Brexit. These payments will stop altogether in 2027.
Research published earlier this year and part-funded by the LEP found that the loss of Direct Payments will remove around £883m of income from the region’s rural economy during the transition period.
Extending the support available was something the LEP and its partners had called for because the changes are one of the biggest shake-ups in the rural economy for over 50 years.
Future Farming Resilience aims to help farm businesses navigate the transition away from Direct Payments. In their place will be a number of payment schemes that reward farmers for the delivery of public goods such as environmental improvements alongside food production on their land.
The project provides free, tailored, one-to-one advice, webinars and business skills development workshops to help farmers and land managers manage their way through the changes.
There are a number of organisations delivering the project to farmers – some local and some national, often with a different focus on what they are delivering. One is Devon County Council, which has run earlier pilots and has received the additional funding from Defra to expand the scheme to neighbouring counties, including Cornwall & Isles of Scilly. Farm Cornwall will be a key deliverer in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Business Information Point (BIP) based in Okehampton will lead delivery of Devon County Council’s project, supported by several local advisors through various organisations.
Which deliverer a farm business works with will depend on the type of support they want to focus on. For example: should they get involved in environmental land management schemes (ELMS); how can they increase productivity and profitability in their dairy herd or sheep flock; should they change their mix of enterprises; should they diversify their business; should they leave the industry or consider share farming with a new entrant; how can they improve their soils and prevent soil erosion?
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub will help signpost farm businesses to the relevant deliverer and will also signpost them to other programmes of support that were previously not open to primary producers under EU funding rules.
The Future Farming Resilience Programme is free and available from October 2022 to any farmer or land manager currently in receipt of Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) payments in Cornwall and Scilly (together with Devon, Dorset and Somerset). Information on this and other support programmes can be found via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub.
Clare Parnell is a farmer in North Cornwall and agri-food specialist. She is a LEP main Board member and chairs the LEP’s Rural Group.