4 min read

A Beginners Guide to the UK's Agricultural Transition Plan.

A Beginners Guide to the UK's Agricultural Transition Plan.

Where to start?

Is it even possible to have a beginners guide to such a complex topic? Well, here's my attempt. Full video here:

First, some background

Leaving the in 2020 EU means that the UK is no longer part of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy which is the main agricultural subsidies programme for EU countries. It was introduced in 1962 and is predominantly an area based, food production policy which benefited UK farmers to the tune of £3.5bn each year.

The UK Government now see this as:

“a once in a generation opportunity to shape English agricultural policy to suit our needs, wants and priorities”

Defra have said that by 2028, they want to see:

  • a renewed agricultural sector, producing healthy food for consumption at home and abroad, where farms can be profitable and economically sustainable without subsidy.
  • farming and the countryside contributing significantly to environmental goals including addressing climate change.

Defra believes that the current EU area based direct payments scheme offers

"poor value for money, rewards those with most land, inflates rents and stands in the way of new entrants".

UK Agricultural Support Framework

Like all good devolved Nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all deciding to do things slightly differently but with very much the same trajectory: a shift towards more environmentally sustainable farming with agriculture as a key driver in the fight against climate change.

Whilst each Nation has it's own specific agenda, the UK Agricultural Support Framework enables collaboration and cooperation on agricultural support between the four UK administrations.

A handy guide to this can be seen here.

So, what are each of the devolved nations doing? Let's find out....


DEFRA are way ahead of the pack when it comes to having and executing a plan for agricultural transition. In 2020 they set out a 7 year period from 2021 - 2028 where the EU basic payment scheme (BPS) would be phased out and replaced by a series of new schemes and initiatives.

Reductions in BPS payments 2021 - 2024. Source: Defra

There are a ton of new schemes being introduced to replace cuts in BPS and i'm not going to list them all here. Take a look at this guide here for a full break down.

The Country Land Association also have a handy guide here.


Scotland seem to be consulting their way to a deadline at the minute with little in the way of concrete detail on what is being proposed. BPS payments are guaranteed until the end of 2024 after which they are hoping to introduce a new agriculture bill which:

"is designed to make Scotland a global leader in sustainable and regenerative farming"

The latest consultation, released in August 2022, can be seen here:

Agricultural Transition in Scotland: first steps towards our national policy


Like in their world cup rugby standing, Wales seem to be dragging their heels behind Scotland of any transition plan with ‘consultation’ again being the word of the day.

In July 2022, Wales released a draft of the hotly anticipated Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) with detail very thin on the ground.

Like England and Scotland, this scheme is geared around

“rewarding farmers for actions to address the nature and climate emergencies alongside sustainable food production”

Like Scotland, BPS payments are guaranteed until 2024 after which the new SFS is due to be introduced.

Welsh Parliament - Sustainable Farming Scheme (August 2022)

Northern Ireland

You'll need a crystal ball to decipher what's going on in Northern Ireland at the minute.

In February 2022, the Northern Irish Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) released this:

Consultation on Future Agricultural Policy Proposals for Northern Ireland

That's the easy read version (yes, it's still 21 pages!) and there is so little details contained in it, it's hardly worth mentioning! The trajectory is the same as the other devolved nations but there is very little information on what is actually being proposed.

Only time will tell.

So what does all this mean for farmers and landowners?

Wherever you are in the UK and whatever type of farm you’re running, you’re going to be affected. Farm subsidies are we know them are going to disappear and the income that comes with them. The message from all parties is that farmers need to assess the impact of these changes and take action and plan ahead.

Get started now if you haven’t already. Don’t wait or put it off until another date.

It’s vitally important to talk to family and friends, your accountant and bank manager as to what these changes mean to your business.

A DEFRA study found that on average:

"around 60% of net farm income is derived from the basic payments scheme so that shows you how big the reliance is on the current scheme and the impact this is going to have on farmers if they don’t plan ahead"

Guides and Resources

On top of the links provided above, the ADHB impact calculator and Farmers Weekly Transition Hub are also both worth a mention:

ADHB - BPS Impact Calculator

Farmers Weekly - Transition