Eustice: food and farming vital to 'levelling up'

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

George Eustice outlines plans for the Sustainable Farming Incentive
George Eustice outlines plans for the Sustainable Farming Incentive

Related tags: Supply chain, Fresh produce, Finance, Meat & Seafood

The food and farming sectors are crucial to the Government’s levelling up agenda, environment secretary George Eustice has confirmed.

He outlined the opportunities offered by food manufacturers as well as those to enhance profitable agricultural production and increase food security, alongside delivering on environmental priorities to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change. 

Speaking at the Country Land and Business Association conference, he said: “There is a food manufacturer in every parliamentary constituency in the UK – except Westminster.

"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.”

Self-sufficiency

He said the sectors that had greatest self-sufficiency in food production tended to be those not traditionally subsidised. He highlighted how encouraging techniques such as regenerative agriculture could reduce costs and improve profit margins as well as helping the environment.

The environment secretary also shared further details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive – the first of the new environmental land management schemes – which will be rolled out next year.

Farmers will receive payment for taking actions which generate environmental benefits, such as improving grasslands or soils. With nearly 1,000 farmers signed up to the pilot, the new scheme will now be rolled out to farmers who farm more than five hectares of land and are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme next year.

Policy outcomes

“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,”​ said Eustice.  

“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. That included a fully-funded annual vet visit to help reduce endemic diseases and conditions within livestock. 

Universal standards

The Sustainable Farming Incentive​ is designed to bring together a wide range of actions that farmers can take to deliver improved outcomes for the environment into a set of universal standards.

Initially, farmers will be able to select from three standards – Arable and Horticultural Soils, Improved Grassland Soils, and Moorland and Rough Grazing. 

The Arable and Horticultural Soils standard offers between £22 to £40 per hectare and includes activities such as testing of soil organic matter. The Improved Grassland Soils standard offers between £28 - £58 per hectare for activity including producing a soil management plan or herbal leys on at least 15% of land.

The Moorland and Rough Grazing standard offers £148 fixed per agreement per year, plus an additional variable payment rate of £6.45 per hectare.

Environmental Land Management schemes

Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association added:“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.”

Related topics: Environment

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