UK farmers are to be offered up to £100,000 to quit agriculture.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) environment secretary George Eustice announced that farmers who wish to leave the industry will be able to access a one-off lump sum payment from the UK government.
The Lump Sum Exit Scheme is to help UK farmers exit the profession in a more “managed” way and is due to open in April and the application period will run until the end of September.
The scheme is part of reforms set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan which outlines plans for a new, fairer system of farming that works in the best interests of farmers.
In return for the payment, farmers must surrender their entitlements and be expected to either rent or sell their land or surrender their tenancy, in order to create opportunities for new entrants and farmers wishing to expand their businesses.
As a result, payment will be based on the average direct payments made to the farmer for the 2019 to 2021 Basic Payment Scheme years.
This reference figure will be capped at £42,500 and multiplied by 2.35 to calculate the lump sum, meaning that farmers could receive up to around £100,000.
“Those of us who grew up with farming know the emotional connection farmers have with their land and the decision to retire or to exit the industry can be extremely difficult and is frequently postponed,” Eustice said.
“The purpose of The Lump Sum Exit Scheme is to assist farmers who want to exit the industry to do so in a planned way and provide them with the means to make a meaningful choice about their future. The Scheme will also free up land for new entrants to farming and those who want to expand their businesses.”
Responding to the announcement, National Farmers Union (NFU) vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “With the rollout of the first domestic agricultural policy for more than 40 years currently taking place, farmers across the country will be making difficult decisions about the future of their farm business.
“For those thinking of leaving the industry, the clarity provided by the government today is incredibly important. Every farming business is unique, with personal circumstances, land tenure and enterprises varying massively, so it’s positive that Defra is understanding of this.”
He added: “Farming is a job like no other and deciding to leave the industry will be deeply subjective to each person. I would encourage anyone considering this to take advantage of the free and confidential business advice being funded by Defra.
“Practically, it is good news that Defra and HMRC will treat the lump sum as a capital payment. This will ensure more of the payment is retained by the retiring farmer, which is reflective of the nature of the scheme.”