Farmers in England who participate in the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme will get an extra payment worth up to £1,000.

Making the announcement at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday, English Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries Mark Spencer said the new “management payment” would be worth £20/ha over a claimant’s first 50ha.

One of the major criticisms of England’s post-Brexit agricultural policy has been inadequate payment rates and there are significant concerns that there will be poor uptake among farmers as a result.

For example, with the improved grassland soil standard under SFI, a total annual payment of £11/acre is paid under the introductory level and £23/acre is available under the intermediate level.

Requirements under the introductory level include completing a soil management plan, testing soils for organic matter and having less than 5% of land bare over the winter.

For the intermediate payment, farmers must comply with the three introductory actions and have at least 15% of land sown out in a mix of grasses, legumes and herbs.

Out of pocket

“The nation is relying on its farmers to protect our landscapes as well as produce the high-quality food we are known for, and we are increasing payment rates to ensure farmers are not out of pocket for doing the right thing by the environment,” Spencer said.

On Thursday, the Conservative Party MP also announced increased payment rates under the agri environment scheme Countryside Stewardship.

There are 30,000 Countryside Stewardship agreements across England and the latest change will see an average increase of 10% on payment rates, according to the UK government.

BPS cuts

English farmers are facing major changes to support schemes. The current plan is for the Basic Payment Scheme in England to be wound down from 2021 to 2027, while new environment-focused schemes, such as the SFI, are rolled out.

Farmers in England with annual BPS payments under £30,000 had a 5% cut applied in 2021, with 20% coming off last year and a 35% cut due to be implemented this year. Larger cuts apply to farmers with higher BPS payments.