Defra has announced that farmers will receive increased payments for protecting and enhancing nature, as well as delivering sustainable food production under the Environmental Land Management schemes.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, farming minister Mark Spencer announced more money for farmers and landowners through both the Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) schemes to provide more support and drive uptake.
He also confirmed an expanded range of actions under the schemes, which farmers could be paid for, due to be published soon.
The changes mean that farmers could receive up to £1,000 more each year for taking nature-friendly actions through SFI. A new Management Payment of £20 per hectare, for the first 50 hectares, will cover the administrative costs of participation, while the expanded 2023 standards will be published in the near future.
Those with a CS agreement will see an average increase of 10% in their payment rates, backdated to the 1st of January, covering ongoing activities such as habitat management. Defra is also updating its capital payment rates by an average of 48% to cover one-off projects including hedgerow creation.
Capital and annual maintenance payments for the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Tree Health Pilot (THP) will also be updated.
Taken together, these changes will reportedly allow farmers to take positive actions to help meet the UK’s legally binding environmental targets, as well as contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2030.
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 stacks up for business – whatever the size of your holding.”
The increased payments recognise the challenges of rising input costs and other pressures across the sector. According to Defra, the SFI Management Payment will also enable smaller businesses, such as tenant farmers, to take advantage of the scheme.