Defra Secretary George Eustice has set out his vision for UK farming, pointing out the importance of the food industry to the Government’s levelling-up agenda, outlining opportunities to enhance profitable agricultural production and increase food security, alongside pans to deliver on environmental priorities to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change.
“There is a food manufacturer in every parliamentary constituency in the UK – except Westminster,” said Mr Eustice, speaking at the Country Land and Business Association conference. “These manufacturers provide employment opportunities in areas where there might otherwise be deprivation. They offer opportunities to apprentices; they invest in research and development and they give local areas a sense of pride and identity.”
He emphasised the role of domestic food production in food security, highlighting that the sectors which have greatest self-sufficiency in food production are those that have not traditionally been subsidised.
He also said that encouraging techniques such as regenerative agriculture can reduce costs and improve profit margins as well as helping the environment.
The Environment Secretary also shared further details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive which will be rolled out next year, in which farmers will be free to choose the elements of the scheme that work for them.
Participating farmers will receive payment for taking actions which generate environmental benefits, such as improving grasslands or soils. Nearly 1,000 farmers are signed up to the pilot. The new scheme will now be rolled out to farmers who farm more than 5 hectares of land and are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme next year.
Setting out his priorities for the scheme, Eustice said: “While it is not for me to tell an individual farmer what to do, I accept that we need to be clear about the policy outcomes we seek. These are to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030; to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; to plant up to 10,000 hectares of trees per year in England, to improve water quality; to create more space for nature in the farmed landscape; and to ensure that we have a vibrant and profitable food and farming industry which supports the Government’s levelling-up agenda and helps safeguard our food security.”
The Environment Secretary also announced that farmers would be able to access funding for an annual health and welfare visit – a fully funded vet visit once a year which can help to reduce endemic diseases and conditions within livestock – providing further financial support and helping to raise animal welfare standards even further.
Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association commented on the announcements: “Today is a major milestone in the development of England’s new agriculture policy. The Environmental Land Management schemes have the potential to be the most progressive and environmentally responsible schemes of their kind anywhere in the world. The detail announced today of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, a key pillar of ELM, fires the starting gun on our transition towards a more sustainable and resilient farming sector, that will feed the nation as well as deliver further environmental benefit.”
Further details on the Sustainable Farming Incentive is available in the ‘Sustainable Farming Incentive – how the new scheme will work in 2022’ document.