The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has today (Thursday 26 January 2023) set out detailed plans for the nation’s farming sector, supporting farmers to be profitable and resilient as they produce food sustainably while protecting nature and enhancing the environment.
The accelerated roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive – a key part of the Government’s Environmental Land Management schemes – will provide farmers with a diverse range of paid actions to manage hedgerows for wildlife, plant nectar-rich wildflowers and manage crop pests without the use of insecticides.
These incentives will make food production more resilient and efficient over the longer term whilst contributing towards the UK’s environmental goals on carbon, biodiversity, water quality and net zero. Together this will safeguard the long-term prosperity of the farming industry and protect the environment for future generations.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:
Farmers are at the heart of our economy – producing the food on our tables as well as being the custodians of the land it comes from.
These two roles go hand-in-hand and we are speeding up the roll out of our farming schemes so that everyone can be financially supported as they protect the planet while producing food more sustainably.
Environmental Land Management
Six additional standards will be added to the Sustainable Farming Incentive this year, meaning farmers can receive payment for actions on hedgerows, grassland, arable and horticultural land, pest management and nutrient management. They build on the three existing standards to improve soil health and moorlands introduced in 2022 – which nearly 1,900 farmers already have in agreements.
The Government has also detailed what farmers will be paid to deliver through an enhanced version of the Countryside Stewardship scheme, which will see around 30 additional actions available to farmers by the end of 2024. The expansion builds on the more than 250 actions farmers can take at present with the scheme seeing a 94% increase in uptake since 2020 and is now part of thousands of farm businesses. The next round of Countryside Stewardship Higher-Tier will open in February, with Mid-Tier following in March.
Countryside Stewardship Plus will reward farmers for taking coordinated action, working with neighbouring farms and landowners to support climate and nature aims. It will deliver the same high environmental ambition previously planned for Local Nature Recovery, including managing floodplain meadows to reduce flood risk and improve biodiversity, restoring and maintaining peatland for carbon capture and storage, and enhancing and managing woodland to mitigate against drought and enhance its resilience to climate change.
The scheme will also be improved so farmers benefit from greater flexibility over when they can apply and how they manage their agreements, with improved access for tenant farmers and increased access to Higher Tier options and agreements.
Elsewhere, following high demand last year, Defra has confirmed it will open applications for the second round of the Landscape Recovery scheme in the spring to support ambitious large-scale nature recovery projects, focusing on net zero, protected sites and habitat creation. This could include projects creating and enhancing woodlands, peatland, nature reserves and protected sites such as ancient woodlands, wetlands and salt marshes.
They involve groups of land managers and tenant farmers, working together to deliver a range of environmental benefits across farmed and rural landscapes. 22 projects began last year aiming to restore nearly 700km of rivers and protect and enhance 263 species.
Today’s announcement provides clarity and certainty to farmers, allowing them to make business decisions and cover costs as direct payments are phased out whilst getting involved in Environmental Land Management schemes. The plans also deliver on the assurances provided by the Farming Minister earlier this month, during a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference announcing increased payment rates.