Following several delays, Farming Minister Mark Spencer spoke at Oxford Farming Conference to give an update on the plans to reward farmers for protecting the environment.
In a statement released at the same time, Defra outlined a series of payment hikes to encourage more farmers to take up both the post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme and updated versions of the Countryside Stewardshipschemes that were in place before Brexit.
Mr Spencer announced that more money for farmers and landowners was being provided through both the Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farming Incentive schemes, which he said would 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 which farmers could be paid for under the schemes, with details to 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.
Mr Spencer said: “My challenge to our great industry is simple – this year, take another look at the Environmental Land Management schemes and think about what options and grants will help support your farm.
“As custodians of more than 70% of our countryside, the nation is relying on its farmers to protect our landscapes as well as produce the high-quality food we are known for, and we are increasing payment rates to ensure farmers are not out of pocket for doing the right thing by the environment.
“By increasing the investment in these schemes, I want farmers to see this stack up for business – whatever the size of your holding.”