New payment rates for 'public money for public goods' Sustainable Farming Incentive announced by Environment Secretary George Eustice

Payment rates for the three new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) 2022 soil standards for England have been announced by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

The new Sustainable Farming Incentive will reward 'public goods'

Speaking at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) conference in London this week, Mr Eustice set out the payment scheme along with further details of the SFI, which will see farmers receive payment for taking actions which generate environmental benefits, such as improving grasslands or soils.

Next year will see the scheme rolled out to farmers who work more than five hectares of land and are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme. This follows a pilot version of the project which saw nearly 1,000 farmers sign up.

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Farmers will be able to choose the elements of the SFI which work for them and Mr Eustice said while it was “not for him” to tell an individual farmer what to do, he accepted the need to be clear about the policy outcomes the Government was looking for.

“These are to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030; to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; to plant up to 10,000 hectares of trees per year in England, to improve water quality; to create more space for nature in the farmed landscape; and to ensure that we have a vibrant and profitable food and farming industry which supports the Government’s levelling-up agenda and helps safeguard our food security,” he said.

Initially, farmers will be able to select from three standards: Arable and Horticultural Soils, Improved Grassland Soils, and Moorland and Rough Grazing.

The Arable and Horticultural Soils standard offers between £22 - £40 per hectare and includes activities such as testing of soil organic matter.

The Improved Grassland Soils standard offers between £28 - £58 per hectare for activity including producing a soil management plan or herbal leys on at least 15 per cent of land.

The Moorland and Rough Grazing standard offers £148 fixed per agreement per year, plus an additional variable payment rate of £6.45 per hectare.

Farmers will be able to access up to £58 per hectare for improving soils from next year.

Mr Eustice said that as the rollout progresses, the government will include further standards to deliver wider environmental outcomes, such as improving hedgerows and combining trees or shrubs with crop and livestock farming.

Mark Tufnell, President of the CLA said the announcement was a “major milestone” in the development of England’s new agriculture policy. “The Environmental Land Management schemes have the potential to be the most progressive and environmentally responsible schemes of their kind anywhere in the world.

“The detail announced today of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, a key pillar of ELM, fires the starting gun on our transition towards a more sustainable and resilient farming sector, that will feed the nation as well as deliver further environmental benefit.”

But he warned: “Make no mistake, whilst many farmers are very supportive of the direction of travel, they are deeply concerned about the transition from the old regime to the new, particularly regarding imminent cuts to the Basic Payment Scheme.”

He added: “As farmers and landowners, we take seriously our responsibilities to the natural world.”