27th March 2024

Government caps six sustainable farming actions to protect food production

Government caps six sustainable farming actions to protect food production

Caps on the amount of farmland used for particular environmental activities have been announced by the government in an effort to prioritise food production.

The measures affect six actions under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), with applicants only able to put up to 25% of their land towards the practices which remove land from direct food production activities, including:

  • 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.

Defra have said that the scheme is designed to have maximum flexibility with the six actions still playing an “important role in supporting sustainable food production” with Farming Minister Mark Spencer highlighting that the actions being capped “were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of land”.

More details is set to follow regarding timings on the introduction of the cap but Defra has said it was particularly keen to introduce these changes before the traditional point at which farm tenancies are reviewed in September.

The announcement has been welcomed by many, including the NFU, with the union’s Deputy President David Exwood suggesting it “sets out to achieve greater balance” between supporting food production and protecting and enhancing the environment, adding that the NFU’s longstanding position was that the matter was not an “either or”.

Duncan Sigournay, Thrings Head of Agriculture, said: “These changes are a timely adjustment to the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, which will rightly place greater emphasis on food production.

“The SFI scheme is proving to be a very useful source of funds for farmers following the phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme and, by limiting the amount of land that can be taken out of production, the government is demonstrating that it is willing to listen to farmers’ concerns on the subject.”

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