CLA responds to Defra cap on SFI actions

Introducing caps may delay target of getting 70% of farms in land management schemes, CLA says
Butterfly on flower
The government is introducing new measures to limit the amount of land farmers can take out of productive actions under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Defra is limiting the amount of land farmers can take out of food production under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), a move the CLA has warned could hit take-up.

The department said that 'while there has been only limited evidence to date of farmers entering large amounts of their land into actions that take away food production, some of these actions were being used more than intended in a small number of cases'.

The changes, which came into effect on 26 March, will ensure the scheme continues to support farmers to produce food sustainably alongside improving the environment, Defra added.

Country Land and Business Association President Victoria Vyvyan said:

“Food production and nature are not binary choices. We have to do both. We understand the Minister's need to look at some of the individual actions again, but the principle of ELMs is the right one.

Sustainability and farming must go hand in hand and SFI is one mechanism to help us achieve that

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan

“SFI is a contract between farmers and the government to make sure we meet environmental and climate targets; something that’s more critical than ever as extreme weather devastates farms.

"Introducing caps at this early stage may only delay Defra’s target of getting 70% of farms in land management schemes, hindering our ability to produce food while protecting the planet.”

What's changing?

Under the changes, SFI applicants will only be able to put 25% of their land into six SFI actions that take land out of direct food production.

The actions are:   

  • Flower-rich grass margins   
  • Pollen and nectar flower mix   
  • Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land   
  • Grassy field corners and blocks   
  • Improved grassland field corners or blocks out of management   
  • Winter bird food on improved grassland.

To date more there have been more than 15,000 SFI applications, with 14,000 agreement offers made.

The government is also setting up a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index to capture and present the data needed to monitor levels of food security, and says it will hold the Farm to Fork summit annually.

The new cap does not apply to:

  • any SFI application that's already been submitted
  • SFI agreements that have already been offered to applicants
  • existing SFI agreements. 

Your views

The CLA is interested in hearing members' views on the cap.

Please email

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