New U.K. Scheme Pays Older Farmers ‘Standing In The Way’ Of Sustainable Change To Retire

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A new British government scheme to pay older farmers to retire has been launched in hopes of welcoming a new greener, younger generation to enter the agricultural sector. Under the exit scheme, farmers who are “standing in the way of change” could receive a sizeable payment to also make way for a number of “public goods” such as carbon capture, protecting water supplies and wildlife. 

Older farmers in the U.K. could receive a lump sum payment of £50,000 (US$70,950) to £100,000 (US$141,900) to retire, under a new government incentive scheme to make room for a younger, greener generation of farmers to enter the workforce. It is part of the country’s plan to get the agricultural sector on board with environmental protection. 

Environment secretary George Eustice says that the new scheme would help existing farmers who have shown to be “take no risks” when it comes to more sustainable methods to move on. The average age of farmers in the country is 59, and almost four in ten are already over the age of 65. 

Currently, the old scheme under the E.U. allows farmers to receive grants based on the size of land they farm, encouraging them to simply hold onto land to continue collecting their subsidies. Around £3 billion (US$4.26 billion) of state subsidies are paid to farmers in the U.K. annually, but this is going to be phased out in the post-Brexit era. 

Earlier this year, Eustice said that these farmers were “standing in the way of change”, as reported by the BBC

“A fresh perspective can make a world of difference. New entrants are the lifeblood of any vibrant industry and farming is no exception,” said the environment secretary. 

A spokesperson for the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told the paper that the lump sum payment is designed to “help contribute to the costs of moving somewhere new or moving into an alternative sector.” 

“We need to address the twin challenges of helping new entrants fulfil their dream and gain access to land, while also helping an older generation retire with dignity,” said Eustice at the launch of the scheme. “Our exit scheme will offer farmers real incentive to confront what can often be a difficult decision and will help them clear bills and settle debts.”

Read: British dairy farm ditches cows to make oat milk delivered in reusable bottles

The government has planned to overhaul its agricultural industry by using grants to incentivise “public goods” such as carbon sequestration in soil, tree restoration, conserving wildlife and biodiversity, and protecting water supplies.

They also hope that new entrants to the workforce will embrace greener methods of farming, especially younger generations who have shown to be increasingly environmentally conscious in recent years, from participating in climate protests to using social media platform TikTok to raise awareness on biodiversity.

Younger generations have also been driving the alternative protein push, moving away from consuming animal-based products in favour of plant-based alternatives that require far fewer resources to produce. 

In addition to employing more sustainable farming practices, the government believes that younger farmers may even diversify their income streams away from some carbon-heavy agriculture categories into nature-based businesses such as camping activities. 


Lead image courtesy of Adrian Dennis / AFP / Getty Images.


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