NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “We welcome much of what has been announced today including changes to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) for 2024, including increased payments and a raft of new options such as support for precision farming and uplands and moorlands. The new actions being made available under SFI will provide further clarity which is much needed by farming businesses in order to plan for the future.
“Confirmation of plans to build on the Countryside Stewardship scheme (CS) with a developed and improved offer for 2024 is also welcome including further new and enhanced options for access and wildfire management.
“However, we still have more questions than answers around the deliverability of these new options. It remains hugely frustrating that nearly six years on from the Health and Harmony consultation, which set farming in England on a path towards public goods for public payments, government is still a long way behind on its commitments.
“With a minimum of 50% reduction in direct payments due in 2024, the tapering of payments to 2027 continues to be very concerning. We urgently need business critical detail on how farmers and growers will smoothly transition from existing agreements to the new offer.
“We repeat our calls for Defra to undertake a mid-term review – an urgent assessment is needed of the agricultural transition on food production and farm business viability. Currently, no such impact assessment exists and it is something we have said is an absolute must to ensure these new schemes are set up to succeed.
“It is imperative that SFI has sustainable food production at its core, with enough options that sit around productive farming. For this to happen it is absolutely vital that there’s a better balance between policies that focus on enhancing food production as well as the environment.
“The NFU remains committed to working with Defra to improve ELMs for all farming sectors to ensure we get the uptake needed to deliver Defra’s own statutory environmental targets and to ensure a future agricultural sector which is resilient and thriving, with farmers doing what they do best; contributing to our national food security by producing sustainable, climate-friendly food alongside protecting and maintaining our environment.”