Farmers and rural businesses across the country received support from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) last year, aiding deliver food production and hit environmentally-positive targets.
Statistics reveal last year the RPA paid over 91,000 claims under the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes, which equated to £1.2 billion. So far, the RPA have received over 9,000 applications for the latest round of SFI, and over 5,000 offers getting started.
An improved Countryside Stewardship scheme meant more action was taken for the environment, with expanded options, an average increase of 10% in revenue payment rates, and an increase in most one-off, environmental capital payments.
Rural Payments Agency chief executive Paul Caldwell spoke on the aims of the scheme, calling farmers the “heartbeat” of the nation’s rural economy.
“The RPA has remained focused on supporting them by processing applications quickly, improving cashflow through accelerated payments and making improvements to our application processes,” he said.
To help tackle farming cashflow concerns, over 2000 rural businesses received accelerated payments of 25% of their live Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) annual value by the end of 2023, a total estimated at around £8m.
“But our work does not stop here and, as we go into 2024, we want to build on what we have already achieved by continuing to work closely with farmers, understand their needs and encourage them to join our environmental land management schemes, ” Mr Caldwell continued.
The RPA has made improvements to help the application process become quicker and more straightforward, including the launch of their ‘Rural Land Changes’ service, allowing farmers and land managers to digitally update maps.
Other schemes delivered by the RPA in 2023 include £22.8 million through the Farming Investment Fund and £31.2 million in payments in 2023 under the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund.
SFI is still open for applications here.