Chancellor Philip Hammond made the announcement on Monday, 3 October, ending months of uncertainty over the future of Countryside Stewardship payments. Having previously stated that the government would honour funds for projects signed up before the Autumn Statement, he has now extended this guarantee to the point at which the UK departs the EU.
“This is extremely welcome news to farmers,” says Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV. “It’s been a difficult summer for anyone trying to plan for Rural Development investment, faced with the choice of rushing in the hope of securing an agreement for 2017 by the autumn statement (November 23) or simply putting all projects on hold.”
In practical terms, the announcement means that anyone who has successfully applied for a Countryside Stewardship agreement this year will have funding for the life of the scheme, with agreements starting in January 2018 covered up until the end of 2022.
The pledge also covers the Glastir scheme in Wales, Countryside Management agreements in Northern Ireland and agri-environment agreements in Scotland. “However, the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) in Scotland is not a multi-annual commitment and is to be replaced in 2018 to comply with EU demands, so the future for Scotland’s Rural Development schemes remains uncertain,” explains Mr Moody.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Mr Hammond made it clear that while the UK was still a member of the EU British businesses, farmers and other organisations must be entitled to apply for EU funds. Payments for multi-annual agreements made before the date of Brexit would be honoured, even when those projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.
A subsequent statement from the Treasury said: “These conditions will be applied in such a way that the current pipeline of committed projects are not disrupted, including agri-environment schemes due to begin this January.”
Although the date of Brexit is not yet known, Mr Moody anticipates it will not be before early 2019. “The Treasury has committed to funding of projects which are seen to be good value for money and in line with domestic strategic priorities, expressly referring to agri-environment agreements.”
Having such a commitment from the Government provides further confidence to the industry, following the Treasury’s announcement in August that it would guarantee direct payments until 2020, covering 2019 claims, he adds. “Farmers are facing some tough times at the moment, with commodity prices under intense pressure, so having these assurances is extremely welcome.”
- For more information contact Jeremy Moody on 01452 831815 or email [email protected].