The government is introducing new measures to limit the amount of land farmers can take out of productive actions under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)

New measures reaffirming how our environmental land management schemes work alongside food production by limiting the amount of land farmers can take out of productive actions under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) have been announced today (Monday 25 March).  

While there has been only limited evidence to date of farmers entering large amounts of their land into actions that take away food production, some of these actions were being used more than intended in a small number of cases. The changes will ensure the scheme continues to support farmers to produce food sustainably alongside improving the environment.   

The scheme is designed to have maximum flexibility and to be simple to apply for, however we always said we would learn and adapt as new information became available. So, following feedback from the farming community, which has been considered throughout the development of SFI, there is consensus on the need to put in place some targeted restrictions.   

Under the changes, SFI applicants will only be able to put 25% of their land into six SFI actions that take land out of direct food production. The actions are:   

  • Flower-rich grass margins   
  • Pollen and nectar flower mix   
  • Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land   
  • Grassy field corners and blocks   
  • Improved grassland field corners or blocks out of management   
  • Winter bird food on improved grassland.   

The six actions will continue to play an important role in supporting sustainable food production but were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of the farm – something the new measures will protect.    

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:   

“Food production is the primary purpose of farming and today we are taking action to clarify this principle.   

“The six actions we are capping were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of land, and these changes will help to maintain this intention and continue our commitment to maintain domestic food production.”  

Farming Minister Mark Spencer. 10 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

The UK’s farming schemes pay farmers to take actions that improve the environment alongside sustainable food production. SFI has been popular with farmers and to date we have received over 15,000 applications and issued over 14,000 agreement offers. The vast majority of land in the scheme continues to produce food – SFI pays farmers to do this in a more sustainable, resilient way that’s good for both food production and the environment.   

Other measures the government is taking to protect food security and ensure we continue to produce at least 60% of the food we consume here in the UK include a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index to capture and present the data needed to monitor levels of food security and a commitment to hold the Farm to Fork Summit annually.   

More information regarding the timing of the implementation of the cap will be released in the coming weeks.

Source: Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsRural Payments Agency, and The Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP

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