The government has today (Tuesday 20 February) underlined its commitment to deliver on its plan to support profitable farming businesses, improve food security and protect the British agriculture sector for generations to come.

Speaking at the National Farmers Union Conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary announced a range of measures to boost productivity and resilience in the sector, including the largest ever grant offer for farmers in the coming financial year, expected to total £427 million.

This includes doubling investment in productivity schemes, bolstering schemes such as the Improving Farming Productivity grant, which provides support for farmers to invest in automation and robotics, as well as solar installations to build on-farm energy security.

The Prime Minister also announced a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index to capture and present the data needed to monitor levels of food security, that the Farm to Fork Summit will be held annually, and a £15 million fund to help tackle food waste by enabling farmers to redistribute surplus food that cannot be used commercially at the farm gate.

This comes as new regulations will be laid in Parliament tomorrow to ensure fair and transparent contracts for dairy farmers, meaning clearer pricing terms for farmers; changes to contracts can’t be imposed on farmers without their agreement; and providing more straightforward ways for farmers to raise concerns about their contracts. Alongside this, a review is also set to launch to improve fairness in the poultry supply chain.  

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: 

For generations, farmers have worked day in, day out to put food on our tables and are custodians of our beautiful British countryside. This is why we committed £2.4 billion to support British farming and have invested into the sector to boost agricultural productivity and resilience, increase food security and deliver for the environment, delivering on our plan. 

This includes the largest ever package of competitions and grants to foster technology and innovation, bolstered by our increasingly popular farming schemes that support all types and size of farm businesses to produce food sustainably.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

The government also confirmed farmers will benefit from the improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) from July this year, following the announcement by the Environment Secretary Steve Barclay in January.

The improved offer includes a 10% increase in the average value of agreements in SFI and Countryside Stewardship (CS); a streamlined single application process for farmers to apply for the SFI and CS Mid-Tier; and around 50 new actions that farmers can get paid for.

In addition, the government will double the Management Payment for SFI so those with existing agreements will receive up to an extra £1,000 this spring and it will be extended to Countryside Stewardship mid tier for the first year of agreements starting by March 2025. This means that the 11,000 farmers that have applied for SFI will receive that top up this spring.

At the conference, the Environment Secretary Steve Barclay will host a roundtable with regional NFU board members to discuss the opportunities and issues facing farmers around the country. The Farming Minister Mark Spencer will speak at the conference as part of a political session on Wednesday.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: 

Maintaining food security and boosting sustainable food production is vital as we see the impacts of more extreme weather and global events, and today’s announcements provide further support for farmers to deliver this while also protecting the environment.  

Almost half of farmers across the country are already signed up to our farming schemes and we continue to work closely with farmers to tweak and improve our offer so as many farmers as possible are encouraged to get involved.

Further measures announced include making up to £500,000 available to deliver projects that support mental health in the farming sector; and expanding permitted development rights to help farm businesses diversify and run profitable businesses, such as farm shops and sports venues.

Funding will also be provided to Internal Drainage Boards that protect agricultural land and rural communities from flooding, helping areas recover from recent flooding events and modernising infrastructure to lower costs for farmers and increase their resilience to climate change.

Information on the Government website states the following information:

Investing in sustainable, resilient farm businesses 

  • The improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) offer announced by Environment Secretary Steve Barclay at the Oxford Farming Conference will open in July. The offer includes a 10% increase in the average value of agreements in SFI and Countryside Stewardship (CS); a streamlined single application process for farmers to apply for the SFI and CS Mid Tier; and around 50 new actions that farmers can get paid for.  
  • In addition, we will double the Management Payment for SFI so those with existing agreements receive up to an extra £1,000 this spring and extend it to Countryside Stewardship mid tier for the first year of agreements starting by March 2025. This means that the 11,000 farmers that have applied for SFI will receive that top up this spring.
  • We will be launching the largest ever round of grants in 2024 expected to total £427 million. The funding doubles investment in productivity schemes, growing the grant offer from £91m last year to £220m this year. This includes:
    • £116m – Slurry Infrastructure Grant to replace, build additional, expand or cover existing slurry stores to reach the grant storage requirements. 
    • £91m – Animal Health and Welfare to support farmers with the costs of items designed to improve the health and welfare of livestock.     

Productivity schemes:

  • £70m – Farming Equipment and Technology Fund to support farmers with the costs of eligible items to build the resilience of the sector and boost our food security.   
  • £70m – Farming Innovation Programme to invest in innovation, research and development that benefits farmers, growers and foresters in England.    
  • £50m – Improving Farming Productivity Fund for robotics and automation, and rooftop solar to build on-farm energy security.  
  • £15m – Adding Value Grant, part of the Farming Investment Fund, for farmers who want to expand their farm operations into processing, packing, and retailing.   
  • £15m – Water Management Grants, part of the Farming Investment Fund, for projects such as on-farm reservoirs and works to improve irrigation.  

Ensuring our continued food security 

  • We will introduce an annual Food Security Index to underpin the three-yearly UK Food Security report. This will present the key data and analysis needed to monitor how we are maintaining our current levels of self-sufficiency and overall food security.
  • We will publish the first draft of the Food Security Index during the second UK Farm to Fork Summit this Spring. The requirement for an annual Food Security Index will be put on a statutory footing when parliamentary time allows.
  • We are introducing a £15m fund for farmers or the redistribution sector working with farmers to redistribute surplus food at the farm gate which cannot currently be used commercially. This will support farmers to utilise more of their produce and reduce food waste at the farm gate. 
  • We will make the UK Farm to Fork Summit an annual event. 

Improving the service and support on offer to farmers 

  • We will cut red tape with new legislation in April around permitted development rights so farmers can develop buildings and diversify earnings through farm shops, commercial space and sporting venues. 
  • We will make up to £500,000 available to deliver projects that support mental health in the farming sector. This will build on the support already on offer through the Farming Resilience Fund, which has benefitted over 19,000 farmers to date. 
  • We will continue to improve our services with better digital infrastructure to make it easier and faster to use, with more rolling application windows and payments made on time. We will also ensure that government bodies treat farmers fairly and with respect. 

Building fairness in the supply chain 

  • We are delivering on our commitment to introduce regulations to ensure contracts in the dairy sector are fair and transparent, with new regulations being laid in Parliament tomorrow. The regulations will apply to new and existing contracts, and help farmers be paid a fair price for their produce. 
  • We will be bringing forward similar regulations for the pig sector later this year, with regulations for the egg sector to follow. 
  • We will also be carrying out a further supply chain fairness review of the poultry sector.

FACTSHEET

What we’ve delivered:

  • At the Oxford Farming Conference in January, we announced the biggest update to farming schemes since leaving the European Union, which included an average 10% increase to the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship payment rates, and around 50 new Environmental Land Management actions.  
  • Set up the Farming Recovery Fund after the severe weather at the beginning of 2024, providing grants of up to £25,000 to farmers affected by flooding.
  • Provided over 19,000 farmers with free business advice to help them adapt to the agricultural transition through the Farming Resilience Fund.
  • Introduced fully funded annual vet visits on farms through the Sustainable Farming Incentive Annual Health and Welfare Review, which is now open to non-BPS registered farmers.
  • Awarded over £120 million in grant funding to farmers through the Farming Investment Fund and committed £120 million to 185 projects as part of the Farming Innovation Programme. Together, these funds will support innovation and productivity, improve animal health and the environment. Last week, we announced 24 successful projects in the latest round of the Farming Innovation Programme.
  • Opened reviews into the food supply chains, to help make sure farmers and growers are paid a fair price for their produce. Reviews have already been conducted into the egg, fresh produce, pig and dairy supply chains, with new regulations coming into effect later in 2024.
  • Introduced legislation ensuring that, from the end of 2023, farmers and growers can continue to use seeds treated with EU-approved pesticidesand access more cost-effective pesticides from the EU.
  • Supported tenant farmers, including launching a Call for Evidence on the proposal for a Tenant Farming Commissioner as recommended in the independent Rock Review.
  • Appointed an additional five agri-food attaches to boost the UK’s agri-food exports, which bring £24 billion to the British economy.
  • Made the regulatory system fairer, more effective and more supportive for farmers by improving on-farm visits and communication with farmers; and using more innovative remote monitoring techniques, all of which has led to a decrease in financial penalties for minor non-compliances.        

Farming Scheme update:

  • Almost half of farmers are involved in our Environmental Land Management schemes.
  • As of 20 February, we have received over 11,000 applications for SFI and already 123,000ha of arable land is being managed without insecticides, 53,000ha of low input grassland focused on improving sustainability and 8,000km of hedgerows are under positive management.
  • There are over 35,000 live Countryside Stewardship agreements in place across England in January 2024 – a 112% increase since 2020.     
  • We have now got over 55 Landscape Recovery projects which are working to restore over 600km of rivers, support the conservation of more than 260 flagship species, restore more than 35,000 hectares of peatland; create over 7,000 hectares of woodland including some temperate rainforest; and benefit more than 160 protected sites. These projects involve over 700 farmers and landowners working together.

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