Thousands of British farmers join government incentive schemes

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One in eight eligible farmers have now submitted applications for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) since September, despite concerns more information is needed.

The scheme, which pays farmers for supporting food production, productivity and resilience alongside environment enhancement, has had over 10,000 applicants so far.

Its impacts have been felt on farms, with 174,000ha of arable land no longer using insecticides, 71,000ha of low-input grassland focusing on sustainability, and almost 15,000km of hedgerows under management since January.

This is on top of the 32,000 Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements which are already in place, and announcements from Defra of the winners of the £12.2 million funding from the ‘On farm Environmental Resilience’ competition.

Rural Payments Agency Chief Executive Paul Caldwell said: “We’ve worked hard to make the application process straightforward and the feedback we are getting from a majority of farmers is that they are finding it so.

“Everything that farmers need to apply has been published and I would urge them not to wait and get involved now.”

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It comes following an announcement at the Oxford Farming Conference of major updates to farming schemes, including 50 new ways farmers can get paid, and a 10% increase in the average value of SFI and CS agreements, including to those already live.

These changes are expected to come in the summer, but farmers are being encouraged to sign up now to make it easier to add new tenets to existing contracts.

While NFU vice president David Exwood did say that he was encouraged by the positive engagement to the SFI, he elaborated that more information was needed about the scheme going forwards.

“We now need the detail behind the new SFI actions announced in January such as support for precision farming and uplands and moorlands, and a clear timeline for the application process,” he said.

“This will provide further clarity and allow farmers and growers to put together a comprehensive agreement for their farming businesses.”

SFI schemes still open for applications here.

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