Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:25 pm on 11th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Jake Fiennes:

When you put economically sustainable agriculture to a farmer, he may have had 47 years of being paid just to produce food, irrespective of the quality, quantity and yield he produces on his land. They must realign their business. If we see this transition period take place as of next year, some famers will lose anything from 5% to 20% of their support income.

Agri-environment helps them through the transition period financially, but it also gets them to understand. At the moment, farmers lack good agricultural environmental advice. That is what we don’t see enough of: advice on the ground. Farmers are a particularly fickle community. They are wary of individuals they do not know, so the advice has to come from individuals with whom they have had previous relationships, whether through their agronomy, because we are seeing agronomy become more open to environmental delivery, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Groups throughout the country, or Natural England, which changed the game of agri-environment 20 years ago. The advice on the ground is key.

If farmers are sold an economic reason and then have an ability to deliver the environmental goods, whatever they may be, through sound advice, we will see greater uptake. The reason we had the stop-start scenario with agri-environment was, as Jim referred to, late payments—“Am I going to get paid for it?”—or commodity prices. We have seen the volatility in commodity prices. If I am getting £200 a tonne for my milling wheat, why do I need to go to an agri-environment scheme when I have already invested in the men, the machinery and the infrastructure to deliver that crop? It is an evolving, moving process, but they are definitely coming more on board with it.