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Wilson Wraight 2020 Round Up

As Wilson Wraight celebrated 30 years in what has been a turbulent year, we reflect on the past 12 months where our team has successfully continued to support clients whilst working from home, embracing technology and virtual communications.

 

The Team

 

2020 saw us say a sad goodbye to Rachel Croker, who is embarking in a new career in accountancy, as well as Marianne Willemsen, our 2019/20 Harper Adams placement student. However, we were pleased to welcome 7 new team members throughout the year:

 

  • In January we were delighted to appoint Rebecca Lewis as Wilson Wraight’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) whilst Charlie Lockhart was appointed as agricultural consultant, bringing with him a wealth of practical experience.

New members join the team

 

  • With 22 years’ experience working for a large multinational food processor, we welcomed Guy Bicknell to the consultancy team in May.

Guy Bicknell joins the team

 

  • As we wished Marianne good luck with her final year of studies at Harper Adams, we welcome Kate Hall, our 2020/21 placement student to the team.

A warm welcome to Kate Hall

 

  • We also welcomed back Lucy Wade our 2018/19 placement student into a full-time consultant role.

Welcome back Lucy

 

  • At the end of November, we welcomed Ross McGowan to the team as an agricultural consultant. After graduating from the University of Reading in 2019, Ross comes with practical and diversification experience.

Ross McGowan joins Wilson Wraight

 

  • November also saw the launch of our Planning Consultancy service and we appointed Daniel Hewett to head up this side of the business. Dan has considerable experience working in planning and development roles, is a Chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Dan Hewett appointed to head Wilson Wraight Planning Consultancy

 

 

Planning Consultancy

 

We added another strand to our bow through the launch of our planning services. Despite this being a new consultancy offering, our values remain the same.

 

Our planning services cover all aspects of the planning system – from the strategic promotion of sites, through to the project management of small- and large-scale development schemes via planning applications or appeals.

 

To read more about our new services, click here: https://www.wilsonwraightplanning.co.uk/

 

News

 

We have had a busy 12 months supporting clients, growing our team, and extending our services, but whilst we have been battling through this year, we have some lovely news to share.

 

A big congratulations to our consultants, Rachel Bush and Sam Pimblett for tying the knot in exceptional circumstances!

 

Whilst supporting clients and balancing the transition of working from home, Rachel successfully managed to reschedule her wedding date between lockdowns to marry husband Will. Sam also had his initial wedding date delayed, but we are pleased to say Sam eventually got to marry wife Kayleigh.

 

On behalf of all the team, we wish you both a lifetime of happiness.

 

As we head into 2021, we feel well placed for the challenges ahead and will continue to assist clients through the changes which will undoubtedly be required as the transitional period commences, new systems are introduced, and the impacts of BREXIT are felt.

 

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Reduction to Direct Payments from 2021

The government has now announced its transition plan for the phasing out of direct payments and existing Agri-Environment schemes.

Commencing from January 2021, the planned transition will start to take place, targeting a reduction to zero by 2028.

 

Between 2021 and 2027 farmers will see their direct payments progressively fall but will have the opportunity to access new schemes as this happens, targeting a reduction to zero by 2028.

 

‘The Path to Sustainable Farming: An Agricultural Transition Plan 2021 to 2024’ states that grants will be offered to help farmers invest in environmental and productivity improvements.

 

If you would like to discuss the impact to your business and possible ways to mitigate some or all of the reduction in payments, please get in touch with one of our team.

 

Please see the attached document here which highlights the reductions in Direct Payments:

 

Reductions to Direct Payments from 2021

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Future Grant Schemes

The new grant schemes offered by the Rural Payments Agency are proposed to be one of the main substitutes for Direct Payments.  The key details and types of grants to consider are summarised below into four categories:

Farming Investment Fund

  • From Autumn 2021, applications can be made for funding associated with equipment, technology, and infrastructure that improves farm productivity and benefits the environment.
  • This fund will be split into two main categories: Equipment and Technology Fund and the Farming Transformation fund.
  • The scheme will be based on the Countryside Productivity Scheme, with a similar application process.
  • Eligible investments could include:
    • On-farm water storage infrastructure, including reservoirs
    • Precision agriculture equipment (low emission and variable-rate nutrient or pesticide application)
    • Robotic or automated technology
    • Equipment and technology for storing, sorting, or processing products

Animal Health and Welfare

  • From 2022 the RPA aims to provide capital grants and financially support vet visits for health and welfare management.
  • The RPA is also piloting payments-by-results in 2023, which will aim to reward farmers for improvements in animal welfare and husbandry.

Slurry Investment

  • As part of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and Net Zero commitments a slurry investment scheme will be offered from 2022.
  • The scheme will help farmers invest in new slurry stores that exceed current regulatory requirements.
  • The scheme will also enable farmers to adopt other pollution-reducing measures such as low emission spreaders (to be a legal requirement by 2025).

Woodland Creation and Support

  • There are several schemes available for woodland creation and protection. These include:
    • The Woodland Creation and Planning Grant
    • Countryside Stewardship
    • Woodland Carbon Fund
    • HS2 Woodland Fund
    • Woodland Carbon Guarantee
  • There will be a new Tree Health scheme in 2024 which will replace the Countryside Stewardship Woodland Capital Tree Health Restoration and Improvement grants. This is likely to include support for felling and the treatment of diseased trees with restocking following felling.

The majority of the grants above commence next year and we expect to have further updates from DEFRA in the early part of 2021.  Please get in touch with the team if any of these grants are of interest and you would like to discuss how they could benefit your business.

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Agriculture – Transitional Timescales

At the beginning of the week, DEFRA published their “Agricultural Transition Plan for 2021-2024” which detailed the plans for cutting ties with Europe’s ‘Common Agricultural Policy’ over the next several years. Dates and deadlines have been set for different elements of the plan, but DEFRA have made it very clear that this will be a work in progress – they understand the importance of listening to, and working with farmers to make adjustments throughout. They are learning by doing.

 

The Agricultural Transition Plan will see the next 7 years bring about major change to the Farming Industry in the UK, as it demonstrates we are now embarking on our post-Brexit course – towards a modern and sustainable approach to the allocation of public funding.

 

The largest element of the document, explains to farmers about the end of Direct Payments. By 2024, Direct Payments will be reduced by 50%, and phased out completely by 2028.

 

The savings made between now and 2024 will be protected and instead be available under new schemes and grants. These new grants will focus on environmental improvement, productivity improvement and animal welfare.

 

“This is an evolution, rather than a revolution.”

 

The shift in funding will see a larger share of the money spent on environmental schemes, from a current figure of 23% to 57% in 2024.

 

What does the timeline look like for all of these changes?

 

2021:

  • As of 1st January 2021, Direct Payments will begin to reduce
  • Tests, trials and pilots of all schemes/grants will continue, alongside a National Pilot of the Environmental Land Management
  • DEFRA will continue to work with farmers to co-design plans for the future years

 

2022 to 2023:  

  • Untargeted Direct Payments will continue to reduce – by 15% in both 2022 and 2023
  • In both years, funding will increase for the pre-existing Countryside Stewardship Scheme, to hopefully increase participation
  • A Slurry Investment Scheme will be introduced in 2022, to help farmers meet rules around slurry management over the transition period
  • Also in 2022, plans are being made to create exit schemes to assist farmers with retirement, and to help New Entrants overcome the barriers that are often associated with starting in the industry
  • There will be programmes and grants to help with nature recovery – which will be consolidated in the new ELM scheme in the future

 

 

 2024 to 2028:

  • By the end of 2024, Direct Payment will be reduced by 50%. This funding is still available, and instead invested in different grants/schemes
  • In 2024, all Direct Payments will be delinked and any residual payments will be phased out until 2027
  • The three tiers of the ELM offer will begin at the latter end of 2024

 

Although the changes detailed in the “Agricultural Transition Plan” will be rolled our gradually, it’s still the most significant change our industry has seen in over 50 years. It’s in opportunity to create a set of rules and targets which are applicable and niche to the UK, and decide what kind of legacy we wish to leave future generations.

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Environmental Land Management

With the gradual phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme comes the new form of support payments called the Environmental Land Management Scheme or ELM for short. This latest DEFRA publication has brought slightly more certainty to how these payments can be achieved however it is clear that the finer details of this scheme is still to be determined.

ELM can be split into the following categories:

Tier 1 Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) Manage land in an environmentally sustainable way, similar to simple Mid-Tier schemes Available to all BPS recipients (including current CS holders)
Tier 2 Local Nature & Recovery Locally specific priorities and options Available to certain farmers and land managers
Tier 3 Landscape Recovery Long term, landscape-scale recovery (including rewilding and woodland planting) Available to certain farmers and land managers

 

The latest publication has now confirmed the following:

  1. The scheme will pay farmers and land managers for contributions to protection of water, air, environmental hazards, mitigation against climate change and finally improving the wildlife and heritage of the countryside.

 

  1. This scheme will be rolled out in full in 2024 however the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) aspect of the scheme will be available in 2022.

 

  1. The aim is for ELM to be more accessible, flexible and more focussed on outcomes. The RPA plan to achieve this by reducing prescriptions, fairer approaches to compliance and giving more choice to the applicant on start dates etc.

 

  1. Current Countryside Stewardship claimants will be able to roll their current agreements into ELM and it has been suggested that CS is the best route into ELM at this current stage. CS and ELM can run alongside each other, but payments cannot be achieved for the same action. CS schemes will be honoured, and extensions offered where appropriate.

 

  1. Test and Trials are currently being carried out and a wider Pilot Scheme will be available to those willing to help co-design the future scheme. Reports on these trials will be published in 2021 and payment will be available to participants.

 

  1. Payment methods are yet to be confirmed but several different methods are currently being trailed, including payment-by-results, tendering and income foregone.

 

Going forward, details of the early SFI scheme will be published by June 2021, including payment rates and options available. All three ELM components will be fully available from October 2024.

If you would like to learn more about ELM Schemes, how it will be rolled-out and how you can get involved in the ELM Pilot please feel free to contact a member of our team.