Farmers in England could receive an extra £1,000 per year for using environmentally-conscious practices under the government's Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).
In an announcement at the Oxford Farming Conference today, Farming Minister Mark Spencer announced more funding for farmers and landowners through Countryside Stewardship (CS) and the SFI scheme, with the aim of providing more support and increase their uptake.
The changes mean farmers could receive up to a further £1,000 per year for taking nature-friendly action through the SFI. This new management payment will be made for the first 50 hectares of farm (£20/ha) in an SFI agreement, to cover the administrative costs of participation and to attract smaller businesses - many of whom are tenant farmers - who are currently under-represented in the scheme. SFI already pays farmers to improve soil and moorlands. Mark Spencer confirmed that an expanded set of standards for 2023 will be published shortly.
The CS scheme will see an average increase of 10% to revenue payment rates, which covers ongoing activity such as habitat management. Capital payment rates are also being increased by an average of 48%. These payments cover one-off projects, such as hedgerow creation.
Capital and annual maintenance payments for the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Tree Health Pilot (THP) will also be updated this year.
Mark Spencer confirmed that an expanded range of action under the schemes, which farmers could be paid for, would also be published soon.
CLA President Mark Tufnell says: “Today’s announcement shows government is listening and adapting to the concerns of farmers. It reduces uncertainty, supports proper valuations and creates stronger incentives for a wider range of farms to enter into the schemes. All this is to be welcomed, but everything is moving just too slowly. We have had many promises of improvements in the future, but what we desperately need are details of payment rates and standards for 2023, particularly for SFI 2023.
We believe the government’s policy on Environmental Land Management schemes to be potentially world-leading, but we need a world-leading government operation to underpin it. Defra is doing good work, they just need to do it more quickly.