Defra expands Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme

The governmental department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has expanded its Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme, in a move welcomed by farmers.

The expanded scheme now contains 102 sustainability-led actions farmers can be paid for, including over 20 new options which have been introduced to support sustainable food production. It will now also be open to new entrants for the first time.

The SFI is the first part of Defra’s Environmental Land Management (ELM) programme, its flagship post-Brexit farm support scheme. It will reward farmers who take actions to improve the environment alongside sustainable food production.

The updated scheme will see payments made to farmers taking part in precision farming and agroforestry as well as various measures to enhance biodiversity and climate resilience. 

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Defra is also introducing new and expanded help for upland farmers and more actions available to tenants on short-term contracts.

Defra added the new actions would help farmers cut input costs and boost yields. 

Farming minister Mark Spencer said: “I recognise that farmers have had to deal with difficult circumstances this year, which is why we have delivered on our commitment to provide further detail on the expanded SFI offer ahead of applications opening in July.

“The new expanded SFI offer gives farmers more choice, makes things easier and pays out more, so they can get on with the important job of producing high quality food in a sustainable way.”

According to the Grocer, the NFU dubbed the changes “encouraging”

NFU deputy president David Exwood said: “All farming sectors are feeling the squeeze following the cumulative loss of direct payments over the past four years and the slow transition to ELMs.

“As we set out in our election manifesto, it’s vital the next government looks at the agricultural budget to ensure the UK farming sector is resilient and thriving, so our farmers and growers can continue doing what they do best; contributing to our national food security by producing sustainable, climate-friendly food alongside protecting and enhancing our precious environment.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed more than 10,000 farmers across England had applied for the improved Sustainable Farming Incentive since it opened in September.

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