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George Eustice shares his plans for the future of farming

George Eustice shares his plans for the future of farming

Thursday, 08 October 2020

As keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) farm specialists group, George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, set out his plans for the future of farming, seeing it as “a period of great change and great opportunity.”

The ICAEW conference was well represented by MHA, with MHA MacIntyre Hudson Tax Partner, Bob Trunchion, delivering the opening session and MHA Consultant, David Missen, chairing the keynote session. George Eustice, who spent the early part of his career working on the family farm, went on to criticise the Common Agricultural Policy’s “bizarre obsession with mapping… and form-filling” which will be replaced with a system that pays farmers for “what they do to deliver public goods.” He also talked about looking to “rekindle the county farm model” which he sees as “an incubator model for new enterprises and entrepreneurs.”

Mr Eustice revealed details of the Tier 1 element of Environmental Land Management, the Sustainable Farm Incentive, which will be accessible to almost all farm businesses and will deal with soil, water, hedge management and integrated pest control. In his words, joining this scheme should be a “no-brainer.

In the protracted question and answer session, it was confirmed that the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would all implement their own rules, and would probably follow a similar route to that set out for England but at different speeds. He promised that the new ELMS payments would be “more generous” than the current equivalents and would include a profit element in addition to the “income foregone” that forms the baseline of current schemes, effectively making environmental activity a crop rather than on obligation. He also promised that, once we are free of EU audit regulations, payments should be made on time. as they are within other UK administered areas such as our tax system.

Finally, it was confirmed that the Government would keep to its manifesto commitment that, for the life of this parliament at least, the agricultural budget commitment would remain unchanged, although the amounts which flow into the new and old schemes will alter over that period.

The Secretary of State concluded by declaring that he sees accountants as playing a key role in encouraging their clients to reorganise their farming businesses over this period of transition and “confront difficult decisions” which will range from gearing up to take advantage of the new regime to taking the opportunity to retire with dignity.

“I was pleased to see that the Secretary of State recognises the key role that accountants play in advising clients on these huge strategic decisions,” remarked MHA Larking Gowen’s Farms and Landed Estates Partner, Bruce Masson. “I was also pleased that he unreservedly confirmed the agricultural budget will remain unchanged. The availability of a broad and simple base level of ELMS is also welcome. The key issue now is for clients to grasp the nettle of reorganisation, so that they control how they arrive at the end of this transitionary period."

If you’d like any further information, please speak with a member of our Farms and Landed Estates team. You can find contact details on the Our People section of the MHA Larking Gowen website. Alternatively, call 0330 024 0888 or email enquiry@larking-gowen.co.uk.

Bruce Masson

Originally published by MHA Monahans.

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