You have to immediately improve your performance when it comes to running environmental schemes if you expect farmers to sign up for more of them after Brexit, Cornish farmers have told government.

Scores of farm businesses across the county are part of ‘stewardship’ agreements, which pay farmers for delivering additional work like caring for hedgerows, planting wildflower margins in fields, managing flood risk and providing nesting plots for birds including skylarks, lapwings and stone curlews.

But this year there have been many problems with the administration of these schemes, with agreements being sent out late and farmers having to wait several months for payments that are due to them.

Roger Jenkin, NFU Cornwall county chairman said: “We hear a lot about farmers receiving public money for providing public goods, including looking after the environment, but for this to work farmers must have confidence in the way any scheme is going to be run.

“Quite frankly, what has happened over the last year or so has done absolutely nothing to make us think things are going to work any more efficiently when Brussels is out of the equation. People are happy to cash in on the work farmers do, but it often seems not so happy to pay for it.”

The landscape maintained by farmers in Cornwall is part of the bedrock of the tourist industry, which is a vital part of the county’s economy. The Duchy welcomes around five million tourists every year, rising to 14 million if you include day trippers. Between them they spend about £1.8 billion which supports 60,000 jobs – 25% of all employment in Cornwall.

Farmers also play a crucial role in providing the food and drink enjoyed by holiday-makers whilst they are here. The agri-food sector in Cornwall employs nearly 25,000 people and is worth around £600 million to the county’s economy.

The NFU is calling on the government to make sure that farmers are at the heart of a future domestic agricultural policy which has food production as its core, as well as recognising the environmental work they do and ensuring they are paid promptly for it.

It is also important any scheme is ‘farming fit’, so able to be practically delivered within a farm business, designed to respond to changes in the market place and integrated into the way land is managed so it goes hand-in-hand with food production, rather than just being about setting land aside.

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “Farmers are determined to continue delivering for the nation. Whether that’s providing quality, safe, traceable food for everyone, putting more British food on more British plates no matter what their budget, or managing iconic landscapes and helping the country achieve its environmental aspirations.

“But to do this we need the government and its trade negotiators to understand the very real challenges facing farmers as we head into unchartered waters, and be ambitious in their negotiations.”