Agriculture & Rural Property

Publish date

7 February 2024

UK Farming Schemes upgrade

On 4 January 2024, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Steve Barclay, announced the biggest upgrade to UK farming schemes since Brexit.

Steve Barclay said “Farmers do the essential job of keeping Britain fed. That’s why I’ll back British farmers and help support farming businesses.”

“We have listened to farmers’ feedback and set out the biggest upgrades to our farming schemes since leaving the EU, with more money, more choice and more trust to support domestic food production whilst also protecting the environment.”

“We’re also making it easier for farmers of every farm type and size to enter the schemes, and I encourage everyone to take a look at how you can join the thousands of other farmers and land managers who are already receiving our backing through the schemes.”

But what is on the table?

  • A single application process for farmers to apply for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (Mid-Tier) – This will be welcome news for farmers as it should, in theory, make the application process more straightforward. The single application process will open from this summer for agreements commencing this autumn which is a change in respect of Countryside Stewardship (Higher Tier) applications which formerly opened in February
  • A further 10% increase in the average value of agreements in SFI and Countryside Stewardship schemes
  • Premium payments are being introduced to encourage farmers to embrace priority actions, namely those with the biggest environmental impact or combinations of actions that deliver benefits at scale. For example, £765 per hectare for nesting plots for lapwing, and £1,242 per hectare for connecting river and floodplain habitat
  • Around 50 new actions will be introduced to the SFI and Countryside Stewardship schemes, commencing this summer. This will apply to all types of farm businesses, including actions for agroforestry and those driving forward agricultural technology such as robotic mechanical weeding. Whilst SFI is open all year, farmers will not, rather disappointingly, be able to take advantage of the new actions until this summer and those with existing SFI agreements will have to wait until their annual review
  • Enhanced payments for farmers for ‘creation’ and ‘maintenance’ options aimed at improving the long term incentives for farmers to create habitats and ensure that they are rewarded for looking after the habitats once they have created them.

Will it help?

With the knowledge that delinked Basic Payment Scheme payments will have reduced by at least 50% by the end of the year compared with payments made three years earlier and payments being reduced to zero by 2027, the news of streamlined SFI and Countryside Stewardship scheme applications and increased payments is undoubtedly good news but farmers will need a considered environmental scheme to ensure payments match those they formerly received.






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