Farmers are being encouraged to take part in the pilot of the Sustainable Farming Incentive – the next step in the Government’s landmark plans to reward farmers and land managers for sustainable farming practices.
Details of the new scheme have been published and expressions of interest for the pilot will open today (Monday, March 15).
Now the UK has left the EU and is no longer bound by the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy, the Government is introducing a new system that is tailored to the interests of our farmers.
It is the most significant change to farming and land management in 50 years, designed to deliver a renewed agricultural sector, producing healthy food for consumption at home and abroad, where farms can be profitable and economically sustainable.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of three schemes to be piloted and co-designed. Further information on the other two schemes, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery, will be shared later this year.
The pilot will build on the great success of the ongoing programme of tests and trials, which already involve over 3,000 farmers and other land managers. Tests and trials focus on trying out individual parts of the future scheme, like land management plans or different payment methods – whereas the pilot will test a working version of the scheme from start to finish.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The ethos at the heart of our future policy is to support the choices of individual farm enterprises.
“The Sustainable Farming Incentive will support the environment and promote animal welfare. It will reward approaches to farm husbandry such as encouraging integrated pest management, improving soil health and enhancing hedgerows.
“Assets that were previously dubbed ‘ineligible features’ will finally have their value recognised and rewarded. I would encourage farmers to engage in this pilot to help us design the new scheme.”
Tom Bradshaw, the NFU’s vice president, said the delivery of the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot will be an important step in the development of the Environmental Land Management scheme.
He said: “Like Defra, the NFU wants the Sustainable Farming Incentive to be taken up by most English farms. We look forward to seeing further details as soon as they are available to ensure potential applicants for the pilot are able to make informed business decisions.
“This first phase of the pilot only includes eight standards, so it is important that further development phases include areas such as net zero and animal health and welfare. It’s also crucial that these standards are not too prescriptive. Every farm business is unique and the scheme needs to be structured so that it offers something for every farmer.”