Government unveils post-Brexit farming subsidy overhaul

At the Oxford Farming Conference, Barclay outlined the revamped offer for 2024, curated based on farmer feedback, with the objective of enticing more farmers to engage in the schemes and catalyse greater environmental initiatives.

Environment Secretary 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.”

The key enhancements in the 2024 offer include a 10% upsurge in the average value of agreements in the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship.

This surge is driven by augmented payment rates, with automatic uplifts applied to existing agreements.

Additionally, a consolidated single application process has been introduced, simplifying farmers’ access to the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier.

Nearly 50 new actions have been incorporated into the schemes, spanning all farm businesses and diverse farm types and sizes.

These encompass actions related to agroforestry and the advancement of agricultural technology. Moreover, increased payments for ‘creation’ and ‘maintenance’ options aim to provide long-term incentives for farmers to create habitats and ensure rewards for their preservation.

Premium payments have been introduced for actions yielding considerable environmental impact or combinations thereof, such as £765 per hectare for lapwing nesting plots and £1,242 per hectare for connecting river and floodplain habitats.

The application window for the 2024 offer opens this summer, with a streamlined process enabling farmers to apply for both the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier through a single application.

Financial incentives for nature preservation

Farmers and landowners will be able to receive compensation for various nature-based actions under these schemes, including initiatives to enhance soil health and facilitate habitats for farmland wildlife.

Farmers will also be paid more for existing actions to maintain habitats, with the price of maintaining species rich grassland, for example, rising from £182 to £646 per hectare.

Only seven years are left to meet England’s target to halt nature’s decline by 2030. However, according to research from State of Nature, nearly one in six UK species remain currently threatened with extinction.

While several green groups have welcomed the upgrade to the farming schemes, doubts have been raised by others regarding the absence of a clear plan detailing how these upgraded schemes will contribute to conserving and restoring nature.

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