Defra announces further information on successor to Direct Payments

CLA welcomes the UK Government's move but warns of need for long term support
Sunset over farming

At the Cereals 2021 agricultural show, Secretary of State for Defra George Eustice announced further information about the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, which English farmers can sign up to from next spring.

Farmers will be able to earn up to £70 per hectare for actions to improve the health of their soil and livestock farmers will be eligible for a free vet-led annual health and welfare review

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is a new environmental land management scheme that will reward farmers for adopting more sustainable farming approaches.

Four guiding Principles have been published which set out the approach to environmental scheme payments under the Agricultural Transition Plan. This includes new environmental land management schemes such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive, pre-existing ones like Countryside Stewardship, and time limited schemes such as Farming in Protected Landscapes

The principles are that:

  • Payments should provide good value for money and achieve ambitious environment and climate change outcomes. Payment rates will be set to encourage wide participation, fairly and effectively paying farmers for achieving these outcomes
  • Payments should, as far as possible, pay for environmental outcomes by recognising and rewarding the full range of activities that achieve environmental and climate outcomes
  • Payments should recognise the value of existing natural assets and do not unfairly disadvantage those who are already achieving good environmental and climate outcomes
  • Payments should form part of a market for environmental outcomes where scheme participants can earn income from public and private sector sources

If Government genuinely seeks improved environmental outcomes from the agricultural sector then it needs to ensure farming enterprises can survive and thrive in the first place.

CLA President Mark Bridgeman

Mark Bridgeman, President of the CLA, said:

“The CLA has consistently argued for higher Countryside Stewardship payments, and called for Environmental Land Management (ELM) payment rates to be high enough to attract support from farmers across the country. It appears that Government is listening.

“We welcome Government’s ambitions to roll out ELM schemes early in the transition, providing certainty and clarity to farmers who may already be struggling with reductions to their BPS payments.

“But a word of caution. Many farms have not even started to plan for the major changes that reductions to direct payment will cause. This is especially the case on small farms that have less ability to diversify or intensify. If Government genuinely seeks improved environmental outcomes from the agricultural sector then it needs to ensure farming enterprises can survive and thrive in the first place. It is vital that Government does all it can to support these businesses now and in the long term, incentivising farmers properly to embrace the full spectrum of ELM schemes and early notification of farming investment grants and advice programmes."

Further information can be found on the UK Goverment's website.