Several hundred farmers across a range of land types in England will be able to apply for a new pilot Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme this summer, ahead of a potential start date of October 2021.

It is one of three schemes being trialled, with Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes due to be piloted in 2022.

The three schemes will be funded by gradual reductions in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments from 2021 to 2027 (there will be no BPS payment in England by 2028).

While other schemes are planned, including incentives to encourage new entrants, and capital grants for managing slurry and nutrients, it is expected that these three agri-environment type measures will form the pillar of future farm support in England.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme will pay farmers for actions they take to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way. Eight different standards are initially proposed, to cover the likes of arable land, improved grassland, low-input grassland, and hedgerows.

In the improved grassland standard, there are three levels from introductory, to intermediate and advanced, with payment rates of £27, £62 and £97 per hectare respectively.

In the introductory level, farmers must take actions including providing habitats for wildlife, following a nutrient management plan and retaining a minimum sward height to encourage biodiversity.

At the advanced level, precision application of fertiliser and manures is required, some ryegrass should be left to go to seed to provide feed for birds over the winter, and higher sward heights must be left over a greater area of the farm.

Further information on the scheme will be released this summer.

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