“While I have a lot of sympathy for the farmers, as far as I can tell these subsidies are mostly designed to help the farmers make a living rather than cultivating the land. So I wonder what the real economic benefits are.”
If you mean the new ‘ELMS’ scheme then yes you are right, most of the payments are designed to stop food production in some way, either by putting the land out of production entirely, or by forcing farming. less productively. The old scheme just paid a flat rate no matter what, and most farmers (who like to do things) continued farming as before, and used the money to subsidize operations in bad years and invest in land fabric (hedges/ditches/fences). etc etc). The flexibility will go away under the new scheme. You’ll only get paid for a hedge if you manage it properly. If some environmental studies graduate sits in an office and orders it to be done, for example, and at a fixed rate that doesn’t actually pay. The whole scheme is a bureaucrat’s dream, literally hundreds of options, this The two competing arms of the scheme offer very similar (but somewhat different) options to farmers, the rules of which must be mixed up and interpreted for an infinite number of different reasons. In the situation individual farmers find themselves. If you prefer read the latest batch of payment options detailed here:
And that’s not even all, there’s a whole load more released last year and probably more later this year.
Most farmers have decided that there is no point in joining the new scheme (hence the 0.5% take-up) because the payment rates for each option are so low that once the costs of complying with that option are off, there is little ‘profit’ left and defrays crawling across your farm. It is not worth the trouble that some land properties are half a meter too narrow, and as a result you will not get paid this year, and they want the last 3 years as well as return the payment.