Over the next year, a much clearer picture should start to emerge as to how local farmers will be supported into the future.
Some initial insight was provided in the DAERA engagement document from 2018, which set out some ideas to deliver against the four key outcomes of increased productivity, improved resilience, environmental sustainability and a responsive supply chain.
However, given Brexit and COVID-19, the issue has not really moved on much since then, so what happens over the next year is crucial for the future of farming.
When developing future policy, we firstly must learn from the past, and in particular we must beware of unintended consequences.
Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to turn off that tap
A good example of that was the overly complicated static vertical hybrid model of decoupling adopted by NI in 2005, which allowed thousands of landowners here into the payment system (unlike the Republic of Ireland).
At the time, it was only worth around £20/acre, but by 2015, with flat rate area payments on the cards, these landowners were a major problem to be resolved.
Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to turn off that tap.
With so much of the current money flowing indirectly to landowners, it is understandable that the UFU in particular seem to be championing a new regime where farmers can access various grants and schemes to help drive productivity and efficiency in their business.
Since 2015, we have had an area-based payment that was probably the simplest farm scheme ever devised in NI
But again, we must beware the unintended consequences. If we take money out of the direct payments pot and use it to fund the likes of capital grant schemes, who really benefits? And the more options farmers are given and the more conditions are attached, the more complicated this all becomes.
Since 2015, we have had an area-based payment that was probably the simplest farm scheme ever devised in NI. Yet we still managed to make it difficult.
We need to tread very carefully with our new found freedom outside the EU.
The money is there to protect farm incomes, not the incomes of input suppliers, consultants, form fillers, delivery agents and civil servants.