The purpose of the Future Farming Resilience Fund (Fund) is to provide business support for farmers and land managers during the transition away from the Common Agricultural Policy under which the Basic Payment Scheme is due to end by 2027. Support is available for free from August 2021 until March 2022 to anyone currently in receipt of direct payments. Nineteen different organisations have been given grants by the Fund to enable them to provide the necessary expert support and knowledge to the farming community.
The scheme is intended to assist with the agricultural transition changes, identify how business models may need to be altered and provide access to tailored support. The scheme has been split into three phases and all lessons learned from the initial phases are to be incorporated into the final phase of the transition which is due to launch in May or June 2024. Details of the providers and the assistance they aim to offer are available at https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2021/07/13/the-future-farming-resilience-fund-providers-named/.
As part of the transition process, the government has launched a consultation on the lump sum exit scheme and delinked payments, which are intended to provide support for those wishing to leave the farming sector and open the way for generational change.
Additionally, the first of the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) starts in 2022, providing up to £70 per hectare for the improvement of soil health. There are currently three ELMS - sustainable farming incentive, local nature recovery, and landscape recovery. The hope is that all of these will assist and enable farming to meet the carbon neutrality target as well as improving the state of our countryside.
The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme has also recently launched and applies to those landowners based in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty where funding will be made available for individual projects such as improving public access opportunities or acting to reduce carbon emissions on farms.
Farmers are very aware of the need to reduce carbon emissions and the aspiration (set out by the NFU at the Oxford Farming Conference in January 2019) that farming should achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. Farmers are also aware that this is a challenging target, to say the least. However, although agriculture is an emissions source, unlike many other businesses it is also a carbon sink (also known as carbon sequestration), with farmers having the ability to protect existing carbon reserves within soils and vegetation.
Although UK farms generate about 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, only a small proportion of this is carbon dioxide with the rest made up primarily of nitrous oxide and methane, which are harder emissions to reduce than carbon dioxide.
However, while challenging, there are a range of resources available to help support farmers in achieving this goal. As well as the Government initiatives highlighted above, the NFU is also committed to enabling farmers to work towards the 2040 target.
The NFU’s report ‘Achieving Net Zero: Farming’s 2040 Goal’ contains a wealth of information and sets out three pillars of activity for reaching carbon neutrality:
- Boosting productivity and reducing emissions – finding smarter ways to increase productivity while reducing emissions
- Farmland carbon storage – increase carbon capture but planting more trees and allowing for bigger hedgerows
- Coupling bioenergy to carbon capture, utilisation and storage – renewable energy to displace greenhouse gas emissions and reduce greenhouse gas by photosynthesis and carbon capture
Not every individual farm will meet the 2040 target but all farmers need to start the journey. Many have already done so, and make the most of the smaller gains achieved by, for example, improving livestock health and creating bigger hedges to act as windbreaks.
You can find more information, as well as case studies, at https://www.nfuonline.com/cross-sector/environment/net-zero/net-zero-rh-panel/achieving-net-zero-meeting-the-climate-change-challenge/.