Environment Secretary George Eustice set out Defra’s vision for farming in England, including sharing more detail about its Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), at the CLA’s Rural Business Conference in London.
He said: “There is a food manufacturer in every parliamentary constituency in the UK – except Westminster. These manufacturers provide employment opportunities in areas where there might otherwise be deprivation. They offer opportunities to apprentices; they invest in research and development and they give local areas a sense of pride and identity.”
The SFI – the first of the new environmental land management schemes – will be rolled out next year, and farmers will be free to choose the elements of the scheme that work for them.
Farmers will receive payment for taking actions which generate environmental benefits, such as improving grasslands or soils. With nearly 1,000 farmers signed up to the pilot, the new scheme will now be rolled out to farmers who farm more than five hectares of land and are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) next year.
Watch the video of the speech at the conference.
CLA President Mark Tufnell said:
“Today is a major milestone in the development of England’s new agriculture policy.
“The Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes have the potential to be the most progressive and environmentally responsible schemes of their kind anywhere in the world.
The detail announced today of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, a key pillar of ELM, fires the starting gun on our transition towards a more sustainable and resilient farming sector, that will feed the nation as well as deliver further environmental benefit.
“Make no mistake, whilst many farmers are very supportive of the direction of travel, they are deeply concerned about the transition from the old regime to the new, particularly regarding imminent cuts to the Basic Payment Scheme. Whilst high commodity prices in some sectors will help cushion the blow, we should remember that many farms operate on small profit margins. It is therefore incumbent on government to ensure every farmer is supported in the years ahead.
“As farmers and landowners, we take seriously our responsibilities to the natural world. Through the use of regenerative farming techniques, peatland restoration, tree planting and hedgerow management, we are working hard to mitigate climate change and reverse biodiversity decline. These new schemes will recognise, reward and incentivise further environmental delivery.”