UK: Government to pay more to growers who protect and enhance the environment

Farmers will receive increased payments for protecting and enhancing nature and delivering sustainable food production under the Government's Environmental Land Management schemes, Defra announced. 

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Farming Minister Mark Spencer announced more money for farmers and landowners through both the Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farming Incentive schemes, which will provide more support to the industry and drive uptake at a time of rising costs for farmers as a result of global challenges. He also confirmed an expanded range of actions under the schemes, which farmers could be paid for, would be published soon.

The changes mean farmers could receive up to a further £1,000 per year for taking nature-friendly action through the Sustainable Farming Incentive (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 is already paying farmers to improve soil and moorlands, and an expanded set of standards for 2023 will be published shortly.

In addition, farmers with a Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreement, of which there are now 30,000 across England, will see an average increase of 10% to their revenue payment rates – covering ongoing activity such as habitat management. Defra is also updating capital payment rates, which cover one-off projects such as hedgerow creation, with an average increase of 48%.

The LEAF association has reacted positively to the announcement. Yet, they still had some criticism. "LEAF welcomes the announcement from the Farming Minister today regarding the increase in payments for farmers to enhance the environment and the recognition it gives to the impact of rising costs to farm businesses. Providing additional support for smaller farmers and tenant farmers is also welcomed given their important role in protecting and enhancing the environment alongside food production," they say.

"However, the increase in payments does not negate the desperate need for the detail farmers and growers require on the future schemes alongside building confidence that funds will remain in place beyond 2024. Delivering the UK's legally binding environmental targets and the habitats required to meet the biodiversity targets agreed upon at COP15 requires long-term commitment and investment from the Government for the farmers and growers who are central to achieving them. This is currently lacking and risks slowing the pace required to deliver these vital outcomes." 


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